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What Is the Doctrine and Covenants? Part II.2, Joseph Smith’s Revelations in 1832

Posted by joespencer on August 8, 2010

The Church saw the seeds of a major development in its notion of canonicity planted in June of 1831 when William W. Phelps joined the fledgling movement. A first revelation to him made good on his background in printing: “And again, you shall be ordained to assist my servant Oliver Cowdery to do the work of printing, and of selecting and writing books for schools in this church, that little children also may receive instruction before me as is pleasing unto me” (D&C 55:4). Though the focus here is emphatically on producing books for the catechism of young children, the subsequent importance of the Church’s establishing its own printing outfit cannot be overstated. And Phelps was certainly the right man for the job, since he had been a printer, even producing his own newspaper, for some time.

By July, once the first group of Saints arrived in Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord commanded the official establishment of the printing outfit: “And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William W. Phelps be planted in this place, and be established as a printer unto the church” (D&C 57:11). A few days later, on the first day of August, further arrangements were made: “It is wisdom in me that my servant Martin Harris should be an example unto the church, in laying his moneys before the bishop of the church. And also, this is a law unto every man that cometh unto this land to receive an inheritance; and he shall do with his moneys according as the law directs. And it is wisdom also that there should be lands purchased in Independence, for the place of the storehouse, and also for the house of the printing” (D&C 58:35-37). With a source for funding identified, and with an able printer secured, the Church could finally get started on setting up its own printing outfit.

Unfortunately, however, Martin Harris did not provide the funding needed for the printing outfit. The result was that, so soon as Joseph Smith returned to Kirtland, a conference and council was called (for the first days of November) in order to determine how to fund the printing outfit. By that point, it became quite clear that the printing outfit was to do much, much more than produce books for children: the major point of discussion at the conference was the printing of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Several motivations likely combined to drive the desire to put the revelations in print. First and foremost, likely, was the fact that enemies of the Church had published some of the revelations in uncontrolled, non-Mormon venues. The “law” of the Church—that is, what is now section 42—both with its outline for economic organization and with its somewhat startling relationship to the law of the land, was perhaps the most important revelation to be published against the Church’s wishes. It appeared in two different newspapers in the Kirtland area in the summer of 1831, thanks to an effort by the recent apostate Symonds Ryder. That the revelation was published under the title of “secret bylaws of the Mormonites” was certainly reason enough to have the revelations printed in an official way: the air of secrecy could then be dispelled, and the Church could ensure that the revelations were printed correctly, without any interpolating hand.

Other motivations certainly played a role, too. With the identification of and beginnings of migration to Jackson County, the Church was soon to find itself divided between two rather distant locations. Some kind of official printing establishment could narrow the geographical distance between the two “halves” of the Church, and it could be made sure that both locations had the same regulations. Moreover, that so many recent revelations had to do quite directly with the law of the Church—and that this law itself was given with so directly a normative status—made it clear that at least recent revelations needed to be put in circulation.

Two plans with regard to publishing the revelations issued from the November conference. On the one hand, plans were made to publish the Book of Commandments, but I will not deal with that publication in this post. (The entirety of my next post will be on that interesting little volume.) On the other hand, plans were finalized regarding the setting up an actual Church newspaper in Jackson County, to be edited by William W. Phelps. Equally important as the planned aims with regard to publishing were the plans set in order to provide funding for the printing projects. During the conference, the “literary firm” was first organized, a firm that would collectively work out the financial means for all printing efforts. The literary firm has a complex history that I won’t go into here, but it should be noted that the invention of this firm had all kinds of important historical ramifications.

It would take until June 1832 to establish the printing outfit in Missouri. The first Church periodical, entitled the Evening and Morning Star, issued its first number that month. Heading the first issue were two revelations. Though work on the Book of Commandments proceeded at the same time that the Star began publishing revelations, I want to look at the Star‘s publication of the revelations first, since the periodical was in circulation for a full year before the (unfinished) Book of Commandments was produced. The first printed version of the revelations came in the shape of the Star, and it has a good deal to say about how the revelations were being understood, about their canonical status, in 1832.

Revelations in the Star

Immediately below is something of a chart of which revelations appeared when in The Evening and Morning Star during its publication in Missouri. Note of course that the publication stops suddenly in July 1833. This was because the printing office was destroyed by a mob angry about the relationship between Mormons and black slaves. It should be noted that this effort at printing the revelations was concurrent with the printing of the Book of Commandments, though the latter would not be issued until it was complete, and so was not circulated during the time the newspaper was being rather widely read. At any rate, here is the chart (it should be noted that some of the printings appear to be mere excerpts because of their length but are not marked as such here for the reason that they were not excerpt, but earlier, shorter versions of revelations that would be expanded for the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants):

June 1832 – D&C 20, 22*; D&C 45
July 1832 – D&C 42a [excerpt]**; D&C 59; D&C 76
August 1832 – D&C 46; D&C 50
September 1832 – D&C 29; D&C 65
October 1832 – D&C 42b [excerpt]**; D&C 43 [excerpt]; D&C 68
November 1832 – D&C 49
December 1832 – D&C 61; D&C 72
January 1833 – D&C 38; D&C 83 [excerpt]
February 1833 – D&C 88a [excerpt]**; D&C 63
March 1833 – D&C 27; D&C 1; D&C 88b**
April 1833 – none
May 1833 – D&C 133
June 1833 – D&C 20
July 1833 – none

* In the June 1832 issue, D&C 20 and D&C 22 were printed as if they were a single revelation. This has led to a good deal of speculation and discussion about whether D&C 22 was originally understood to be part of the Articles and Covenants of the Church. I will deal with this question in the discussion below.

** Sections 42 and 88 are each made up of two revelations received on completely different days, revelations that were only cobbled together at a subsequent point. It is thus that I refer to them above as D&C 42a (equivalent to D&C 42:1-73 and received on February 9, 1831) and D&C 42b (equivalent to D&C 42:74-93 and received on February 23, 1831), as well as about D&C 88a (equivalent to D&C 88:1-126 and received on December 27-28, 1832) and D&C 88b (equivalent to D&C 88:127-141 and received on January 3, 1833). Thus where the chart notes, for example, that an excerpt of D&C 42a was printed, it should be understood not that D&C 42a was printed in its entirety, as if D&C 42a were an excerpt of the whole of D&C 42, but rather than an excerpt of the distinct revelation I am here referring to as D&C 42a was printed.

Now, what is to be made of all this information?

(1) The clearly privileged position of section 20 in these printings is obvious. Not only did it appear as the first item in the first issue of the newspaper, it was reprinted in the first issue of the second volume (basically on the one-year anniversary of the newspaper’s launch, in June 1833). Section 20 was the only revelation to be printed twice in the short history of the Star, and one can only wonder whether the plan was to print that revelation every year in June, ensuring that all readers—old and new—thus had a copy of the Articles and Covenants of the Church. This printing and reprinting made clear that the Articles and Covenants was the founding document of the Church and the most important of the revelations for general circulation.

(2) It is significant that (an excerpt of) section 42 appeared as the first item of the second issue of the newspaper. Section 42 was received as the law of the Church, and was widely recognized to have a constitutive status in the Church. Moreover, it is significant that it was section 42 that was printed by apostates in non-Mormon newspapers in 1831. There was obviously concern on the part of the Church to put an “official” version of the revelation in circulation through the Star. Its appearance at the head of the second issue is further significant in that only the first two issues of the first twelve placed the revelations they printed as the first item in the printing. (The first issue of the second volume, reprinting section 20, would place that reprinting at the head of the issue as well.) That the only two revelations privileged to take the position of headline in the newspaper were sections 20 and 42 says something about their official status: they were clearly taken to be the two revelations that every Saint should be acquainted with.

(3) It is worth asking why sections 22, 45, 59, and 76 were privileged to appear alongside sections 20 and 42 in the first two issues of the Star. Each deserves individual attention.

(a) Section 22, it seems, was regarded for the moment it was printed in the Star as having been understood to be part of the Articles and Covenants. Interestingly, section 22 was actually received a few days before section 20 (section 20 was received on April 10, 1830, while section 22 was received the day the Church was organized, on April 6, 1830). But section 22’s constitutional nature was quite clear from the beginning, since it designated the need for those who had been baptized in other faiths to be rebaptized into the Church, and because it thus associated itself with the instructions regarding baptism in section 20. However, section 22 was never again in any publication associated so directly with section 20. Perhaps the decision to print the two revelations as a single revelation in the June 1832 issue (and note that they were not so printed in the June 1833 issue!) reflects a kind of malleability at the time: W. W. Phelps, as the editor of the periodical, may have had a bit more liberality granted him than one would expect.

(b) Section 45, on the other hand, seems a bit out of place in its being positioned alongside section 20/22. It was clearly marked as a separate revelation, of course, but it isn’t clear why section 42 didn’t simply appear as the partner of the Articles and Covenants in the first issue. One could play with the possibility that the idea was to publish in two consecutive issues both an organizational revelation and a revelation (or two) of less official importance but more general interest. Whatever the editor might have had in mind along these lines, the publication of section 45 reflects the interests of both the editor and the Saints generally: it is a revelation about the upheavals and difficulties of the imminent eschaton, clearly entangled with the apocalyptic twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. Set alongside of section 20/22, it suggests that Mormonism was effectively divided between its constitutional organization and its apocalyptic anticipations. Moreover, it makes clear that the Church was interested in clarifying from the very beginning what it officially believed about events to come.

(c) The inclusion of section 59, printed alongside section 42 in the second issue, may perhaps be thought as parallel to the inclusion of section 22 in the first issue. Of course, section 59 is clearly distinguished in the printing from the law which precedes it, but its essentially official explanation of the Church’s “policies” about the Sabbath may make it parallel in some ways to the “additional information” status of section 22. But this approach to the printing of section 59 is problematic. There is so much more going on in this revelation than a few words of instruction about the Sabbath, though we generally read the revelation in that kind of reductive manner. But it should be noted that the Star did not publish merely an extract (as with other revelations), but the entirety of the revelation. Of course, it was introduced with a title associating it primarily with the Sabbath, but it should also be noticed how much the revelation says about the place and nature of Zion, the very place where the newspaper was being printed. In the end, then, it seems best to assume that this revelation was privileged because of its instructional or even constitutional nature as well as because of what it had to say about the land of Zion.

(d) Finally, section 76 was included alongside the more official revelations printed in the first two issues of the newspaper. There is little mystery about this: the Vision was revolutionary, theologically speaking, and any privileging of it is not surprising. Indeed, it is significant that at about the same time, Joseph Smith had a new manuscript collection of his revelations started, and he gave pride of place to the Vision (this is the Kirtland Revelation Book, on which see more below). If section 45 was privileged to sit alongside the Articles and Covenants in the first issue because of its clarifications of the eschaton, it makes sense that section 76 would be privileged to sit alongside the Law in the second issue because of its clarifications of what lie beyond the eschaton.

(4) The two revelations printed in the third issue of the Star bear a definite theme: sections 46 and 50 were both clarifications about the nature of the Spirit and of spiritual gifts (both were revealed in response to the early Kirtland charismatic excesses). I am aware of no sources indicating that there were historical circumstances calling for the printing of these revelations. Rather, it seems simply that they were regarded as important for general reasons. The question of charismatic gifts, and of understanding the workings of the Spirit, was a crucial one in the early history of the Church—as it still ought to be today—and so these revelations seem to have been privileged. It is important, however, that beginning with the August issue, the revelations included in the Star did not appear on the front page, but simply somewhere within the newspaper.

(5) Most of the revelations printed fall into the more or less twofold pattern established in the first two issues of the Star: revelations were either focused on constitutional/legal issues (the organization and policies of the Church—D&C 20 and D&C 42 in the first two issues) or focused on questions of eschatology and prophecy (usually the Second Coming—D&C 45 and D&C 76 in the first two issues). With this basic classification in mind, much of the rest of the revelations printed in the newspaper can be organized: Constitutional – D&C 42b (October 1832); D&C 68 (October 1832); D&C 72 (December 1832); D&C 83 (January 1833); D&C 88a (February 1833); D&C 27 (March 1833); D&C 88b (March 1833). Eschatological – D&C 29 (September 1832); D&C 65 (September 1832); D&C 43 (October 1832); D&C 49 (November 1832); D&C 61 (December 1832); D&C 38 (January 1833); D&C 63 (February 1833). A few of these revelations do not entirely fit within this classificatory system comfortably, but the general pattern seems quite clear: two things first and foremost interested the Saints in 1832 and 1833, namely, the organization of the Church as directed by the Lord, and the events about to come during the long-awaited eschaton.

(6) Arguably, only two revelations in the whole lot don’t fit at all into the twofold pattern outlined above: sections 1 and 133. Actually, section 133 would very nicely fit into the eschatological category were it not to have been introduced in the way it was when it was printed. Section 1 of the D&C appeared in the Star in March 1833, in between two other revelations. Because this revelation identifies itself as the revealed preface to the Book of Commandments, it would clearly have been understood to have been different from other revelations printed in the newspaper. Though it was included with other revelations, it would likely have been taken—even more than the other revelations—to be a kind of foretaste of the Book of Commandments, which was then in production. Section 133 was printed in May, two months later, with a heading that linked it to section 1’s printing in March: the heading explained that while the other revelation was the preface for the volume-to-come, this revelation (D&C 133) was the revealed appendix to the volume. The Star thus printed the bookends, as it were, of the Book of Commandments. Interestingly, these two revelations were, in many ways, the last to be printed. The only revelation to be printed in the periodical after them was the reprint of section 20 in the one-year anniversary issue.

(7) Once the Star began printing material that outlined the Book of Commandments as it would be printed—that is, once it issued sections 1 and 133 of the D&C—it more or less ceased printing revelations. Immediately after the publication of the preface, an issue of the periodical appeared without printing any revelations, that for the first time. While the next two issues printed revelations, each only printed one, and even these were limited in scope: the May issue printed the appendix to the Book of Commandments, and the June issue reprinted the Articles and Covenants. The July issue—the newspaper’s last—printed no revelation. It seems that once the major installments in the twofold pattern had been exhausted, and once these had been punctuated by the publication of the preface and appendix to the Book of Commandments, interest in publishing the revelations waned quickly.

The task now is to take stock of what these brief analyses tell us about canonicity in about 1832.

Implications

The first and most obvious thing that must be said is that two primary interests seem to have governed the Saints’ attention—at least as that attention was mediated through the editorial decisions of W. W. Phelps—in 1832: most of the revelations that were printed in the Evening and Morning Star were either of what I have called here a “constitutional” nature (that is, they were focused first and foremost on the policies, organization, and order of the restored Church) or of what I have called here an “eschatological” nature (that is, they were focused first and foremost on the events surrounding the “end of the world,” whether in terms of the Second Coming, the wars and disasters preceding the end, the nature of the judgment at the end, or whatever). This double focus was introduced by the newspaper from the very first issue (of June 1832) and continued with remarkable consistency through most of the newspaper’s short history (at least through March 1833).

This double focus perhaps tells us something about how the Saints in 1832 and 1833 understood Joseph’s role as a revelator. It seems they took his revelatory power to be a question on the one hand of prophecy, that is, of providing the Saints with a much clearer picture of the eschatological events that had long been anticipated by Christians, but perhaps without the kind of clarity that Joseph could provide. On the other hand, it seems that they understood his revelatory capacity to be what allowed them to structure the Church organization appropriately so that it could guide believers through to the eschaton in the way God had designed. Taking these two points together, it thus seems that Joseph Smith’s position as prophet was understood to have a very specific purpose: to anticipate the end, and to provide instruction about how collectivelyorganizationally—to anticipate the end.

If this is indeed the best interpretation of the great bulk of the revelations included in the Star, then we can learn something about the nature of canonicity being worked out in the Church’s first attempts to print and promulgate modern revelation (as opposed to modern translation of ancient scripture): revelations were effectively organized in an atemporal or ahistorical manner (there was no attempt at chronologization, and very few revelations were printed with any information about when they were received); it was taken to be legitimate to print only an extract or an excerpt of a revelation in order to focus on very specific content; and the revelations were, more or less, printed in the order of what the Saints must have understood to be their relevance, that is, of the explanatory power that the revelations bore for their immediate situation.

And, of course, that immediate situation was the building of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. The Star was being printed in an establishment launched by revelation and funded through the organization of the United Firm, one of the more important organizations in the history of the Church, and there was a clear understanding that the entire printing effort was part of the actual and official establishment of Zion. The revelations, it seems, were chosen for printing for precisely their relevance to those gathered in Zion and at work on building the promised New Jerusalem. Obviously, these revelations were understood by those reading the journal to be normative, though it isn’t really clear whether they were understood to be enforced in their implications, and it isn’t really clear whether they were—in their published form—to be taken as employable in any official setting. They were certainly more normative than they had been in their unpublished form, but the full sense of their normativity at this time remains in question.

Interestingly, the effort at printing the revelations in the Star seems to have wound down towards the end of the life of the paper. In part, this seems to have been connected with the printing of what is now section 1 of the D&C in the March 1833 issue—what at the time was understood to be the revealed preface to the Book of Commandments. That this was followed by an issue that printed no revelations (April 1833), and then by an issue that printed only what is now section 133 of the D&C, what at the time was understood to be the revealed appendix to the Book of Commandments (May 1833), and then by two issues that printed between them only one revelation, and that one revelation being a reprint of the first issue’s printing of the Articles and Covenants of the Church (June and July 1833)—all this seems to suggest that the decision to print the preface and appendix to the Book of Commandments marked something like the end of the Star‘s systematic printing of revelations. Of course, because the periodical’s printing came to an abrupt end after the July 1833 issue, it is difficult to know what Phelps would have gone on to publish in the way of revelation, but there seems, in the last five issues of the Star, to be a pretty clear pattern.

What should be read into this petering out of efforts to print the revelations? At the very least, it seems to me, it is possible to see a kind of anticipation of the printing of the Book of Commandments. Indeed, there is good reason to suggest that the Book of Commandments would have been ready for sale within another two months after the destruction of the printing office (it is impossible to tell now, but it seems that only the last signature remained to be printed). That the Star suddenly replaced its erstwhile focus on constitutional and eschatological revelations in order to print—with explicit headings marking them as such—the preface and appendix to the Book of Commandments seems, ultimately, to suggest that Phelps was preparing to allow the printed volume to take the place of his circulating paper, so far as the promulgation of revelation was concerned.

This point, if it’s not amiss, has important implications for notions of canonicity in 1832 and 1833. If Phelps indeed saw his printing of the revelations to be a kind of in-the-meanwhile operation, something to be effectively discontinued when the Book of Commandments appeared officially in print, then it seems that there is some reason to regard as somewhat lesser the sense of normativity attached to the printing of the revelations in the Star. Of course, for all that, the order of the revelations as printed, as well as the double categorization of those revelations, tells us a good deal about how the revelations could be understood apart from their chronological ordering, but it seems that this 1832-1833 ordering was itself understood at the time to be something of a less-than-fully-official attempt at organizing and making sense of the revelations.

All, that is, except for the privileging of sections 20 and 42. That these are the only two revelations in the whole lot printed in the Star that were granted the opportunity to appear on the front page of the newspaper is certainly significant. And it is moreover significant, surely, that section 20 appeared again on the front page of the one-year-anniversary issue of the newspaper. In the case of these two revelations—the Articles and Covenants and the Law of the Church—it seems that Phelps was publishing the revelations in a somewhat more official ordering or privileging than might have been the case with the others printed. Indeed, that these two revelations in particular were regularly copied and carried around by elders of the Church, and that the same two revelations were almost always read at general and regional conferences of the Church (often with accompanying commentary), makes clear why Phelps would have privileged them so much, and why he might have done so with something like (but probably not equivalent to) “official sanction.”

At any rate, it seems clear that the 1832 and 1833 publication of the revelations—the first Church-sponsored publication of any of Joseph Smith’s modern revelations—was guided by a rather unique sense of canonicity. Obviously, there was no strong sense of canon, since the revelations could be printed alongside news about the cholera, notices about local concerns, articles about doctrinal issues, and so on. But at the same time, since the revelations were, in almost every case, clearly labeled as revelations and understood to have some kind of normativity, there was, without question, some kind of canonicity at work in the Star‘s printing of Joseph’s revelations. This canonicity might be said to have been anticipatory, anticipatory in the sense that the effort at printing seems to have been to give the Saints a foretaste of the Book of Commandments that was in preparation. Ironically, it provided this foretaste to the Saints by organizing the revelations in a non-chronological way, privileging certain themes, ordering the revelations in terms of strict relevance, almost systematically avoiding revelations from the New York period of the Church, and taking the liberty to provide excerpts only of certain revelations. But if the intention was to whet the appetite of the Saints, to get them interested in what was coming, then there seems to have been a kind of genius of marketing at work in Phelps’s efforts. That the promised product—the Book of Commandments—was never actually published (more on that in the next post, obviously) is only a concluding irony.

But if all of this begins to clarify the spirit of canonicity that haunted the printing of the revelations in 1832 and 1833, I would like to turn for the last part of this post to a parallel question: What about parallel efforts at the time to fit the revelations in a historical framework?

Histories of the Church in 1832

As elsewhere in this series of posts, I want here to offer at least a brief word about how other efforts were being undertaken alongside the official publication of the revelations to place the revelations within a historical framework. Two obvious efforts deserve mention in connection with the printing of the revelations in the Evening and Morning Star: the Book of Commandments and Revelations and the John Whitmer history. I’ll take each, quite briefly, in turn.

The Book of Commandments and Revelations was a manuscript book that gathered the several revelations of Joseph Smith for the first time into a single volume. It seems to have been started in the summer or fall of 1831, and it seems to have been connected in large part with the efforts to print the revelations in the Book of Commandments. For that and other reasons, it is perhaps best to take it up more directly in connection with that volume. But because it had already been created by the time Phelps began publishing the revelations in the Star, and because it seems to have been in residence in Jackson County during that time, it perhaps cannot go unmentioned here. The reason this manuscript book can be taken as a kind of history of the Church is because it organized the revelations chronologically, and it provided each revelation with a heading that contextualized it. Interestingly, it does not seem that Phelps was interested in the internal organization of this volume if and when he used it as a source for his own printing of the revelations. Perhaps because it was more a collection than a history of the revelations, Phelps would have understood its chronological ordering to be, in part, a reflection of its archival status, of its organizing the revelations in a convenient way for those who would need to draw on it as a resource.

Interestingly, a second manuscript revelation book was also being created at the time, and its ordering of the revelations is much more like Phelps’s in the Star. This one, long called the Kirtland Revelation Book, begins with section 76, “The Vision,” and then includes revelations in what can only appear to be a somewhat haphazard fashion. I have not taken the time to do a systematic analysis of the selection and ordering of the revelations that appear in the Kirtland Revelation Book, but its anything-but-chronological approach to the revelations certainly suggests that it might have been an inspiration for Phelps’s approach. Of course, there is no clear suggestion that the Kirtland Revelation Book was in Jackson County where Phelps would have been able to consult it. Rather, it seems to have been the Kirtland parallel to the Book of Commandments and Revelations. At the very least, then, it seems that the Kirtland Revelation Book simply makes clear that Phelps was not the only one who saw the possibility of organizing the revelations in a way that did not reflect the order in which they were received.

If the Book of Commandments was not exactly a history, the John Whitmer history was. Oliver Cowdery had kept a history of the Church until late 1831, at which point Whitmer took over as Church historian. Since Oliver’s history no longer exists (so far as we know), and since Whitmer’s history begins where Oliver’s left off, the John Whitmer history is incomplete. Nonetheless, it is a crucial piece of work, not only for historians who use it in order to write the history of the early years of the Church, but for making sense of the relationship between the revelations and history in the early understanding of the Church. Whitmer’s history is precisely a history, but it is best read as a kind of systematic contextualization of the major revelations. Because his history attempts first and foremost to set up what happened in Kirtland (obviously attempting first to frame the reception of D&C 42, the Law), it begins only with D&C 37 and 38, the commandment to leave New York for Ohio. But it does provide an 1831-1832 model for how to weave the revelations, in their more-or-less chronological ordering, into a coherent history or even story. Whitmer’s work on the history was rather sporadic, and even the “complete” thing is quite short (a kind of “Book of Acts” of Joseph and the other early brethren), but its basic model is perhaps what is most important about it—not its comprehensiveness.

But what does the Whitmer history tell us about the canonicity at work in the Star printings of the revelations? Is it possible that the very fact that the Whitmer history was in preparation freed Phelps up to print the revelations in a non-chronological fashion, that he was free to divorce the revelations from their historical context? That is, might one suggest that the eventual publication of the history promised to Phelps that those who wanted or needed to set the revelations in their historical context could turn to the other publication, while his focus on selecting revelations that were the most relevant, the most interesting, and the most productive could provide a parallel but ultimately quite distinct resource? Something like this “division of labor” was to be at work in subsequent efforts, as will be made clear in some of the posts I’ll be writing. I think there is at least good reason to play around with the possibility that something like this was already at work in 1832 and 1833.

But perhaps I’ve said enough, for the moment, about the Evening and Morning Star. It is time to turn to the much more clearly canonical—but never officially published—Book of Commandments.

6 Responses to “What Is the Doctrine and Covenants? Part II.2, Joseph Smith’s Revelations in 1832”

  1. Robert C. said

    Still reading with fascination, Joe—thanks.

    Makes me wonder about the differences between the canonizing process of the OT, NT and BOM. There actually seem to be more parallels between the D&C and the OT’s divisions of law (D&C 20 like Leviticus? D&C 42 like Deuteronomy?), prophets (like the historical collections), and writings (like the non-historical collections) than NT and (esp.) BOM. At least that’s my first impression….

  2. joespencer said

    Interesting take, Robert. I think I’ll try to ask some of these questions as I near the end of the project. But I think you might be onto something.

  3. JerryY said

    Joe:
    Did you come across my note yesterday on your Chap 15 article?
    It said:
    Is anyone working on GP Chapter 16 for Aug 15th? (This is Aug 11th) The Exponent ladies have a take on the Church in Former Times linking the 6 features to the Holy Ghost.

    • joespencer said

      I did just this morning, Jerry. (Sorry for any lateness: I’ve been moving from Utah to New Mexico this week!)

      According to the schedule, Jim F. is supposed to do the notes for lesson 16, but I haven’t sent out the reminder…. I’m not sure anything will be posted….

  4. […] What Is the Doctrine and Covenants? Part II.2, Joseph Smith’s Revelations in 1832 […]

  5. kirkcaudle said

    Building on the thoughts of Robert…

    I don’t know as much about the OT and BOM, but early Christians definitely had an interest in books that dealt with things of both a “constitutional” and an “eschatological” nature. During the late first/early second century the books early Christian congregations used almost always fell into one of these two categories.

    However, although all Christians were thinking about the end times, they debated which apocalyptic book(s) should actually be cannon (take Revelation and Shepherd of Hermas for example). They all believed the end time was coming; they just debated who had the right writings that said how it would happen.

    The thing that I find interesting is that the Book of Acts is included in just about all (if not all) early Christian canons. The Book of Acts was a must for any Christian congregation. I think it functioned in much the same way as sections 20 and 22 did for the early LDS church. No early Christian Bishop (around the 2nd century) could imagine a congregation functioning without the “constitutional” books that circulated.

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