“Doctrine and Covenants 93,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 93,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Kirtland Township, OH, 6 May 1833; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams; four pages; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket and archival marking. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
Few contemporary sources shed light on the background of this 6 May 1833 revelation.1 JS’s history simply states, “On the 6th. [of May 1833] I received the following.”2 Newel K. Whitney, one of the individuals mentioned in the text, made the only other known early comment on the back of perhaps the earliest extant manuscript version of the revelation. Whitney summarized the revelation by writing, “Revelation to Joseph, Sidny Frederick & Newell by chastisement & also relative to the Father & Son 6 May 1833.” While Whitney’s summary focused first on the reprimand the men received from the Lord in relation to their families, the majority of the revelation was “relative to the Father & Son.”
The text of the revelation appears to be closely related to the first chapter of the Gospel according to John but was likely not the direct result of JS’s work revising the New Testament, since the revision had been completed three months earlier, on 2 February 1833.3 Further, the revisions to John’s record made in this revelation generally vary from the changes JS made to the same text in his larger project of revising the Bible. The revelation was not the first JS document to involve passages from John’s gospel. One of the earliest recorded JS revelations, dictated April 1829, was a result of a disagreement between JS and Oliver Cowdery over the final chapter of John and whether Jesus Christ’s statement about John tarrying meant that he would not die.4 Through the means of a seer stone or stones in his possession, JS dictated the 1829 revelation, which he explained had been “translated from parchment” and included a fuller account from John, which John had “written and hid up.”5 The Book of Mormon also references John by name several times, while no other apostle of Jesus is specifically mentioned in the book. In addition, in March 1832 JS created a document that explained the content of many verses in the book of Revelation, which the Book of Mormon explicitly asserts was authored by John the Apostle.6
The revelation featured here directly challenged several prevailing Christian beliefs of the time, including doctrines regarding the nature of Jesus Christ, especially his humanity and divinity, that most Christians believed had been settled by the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. That council held that Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully divine, “that in Christ two distinct natures were united in one person, without any change, mixture, or confusion.”7 This revelation instead describes Jesus as having “received not of the fulness at the first but received grace for grace and he received not of the fulness but continued from grace to grace until he received a fulness.”
Aside from addressing the nature of Jesus, the revelation also addressed humankind’s relationship with God, asserting that “man was also in the begining with God.” The premortal existence of humankind was also discussed in an earlier document dictated by JS; in his early translation of the Bible, he recorded a conversation between God and Moses in which Moses was told, “For I the Lord God created all things of which I have spoken spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the Earth … & I the Lord God had created all the children of men & not yet a man to till the ground for in Heaven created I them & there was not yet flesh upon the Earth.”8 The 6 May revelation also challenged the general Christian concept of creation ex nihilo by stating that “inteligence or the Light of truth was not created or made.” In an even greater contrast to the prevailing belief in the omnipotence of God, this revelation expressly stated not only that intelligence was “not created or made” by God, but also that it could not, in fact, be created by him.
It is not known whether any discussions about early Christian creeds and doctrines preceded this revelation or how familiar JS was with them prior to dictating it. Sidney Rigdon, one of the revelation’s recipients, had been a follower of Alexander Campbell’s religious movement that denied that belief in any of the traditional Christian creeds was essential. Campbell had also published a discourse in 1827, centered on the first chapter of John, rejecting the traditional Calvinist interpretation.9 In addition, the Latter-day Saint settlement in Kirtland, Ohio, was not far from a large Shaker community in North Union, Ohio. The Shakers’ belief in the nature of Christ, widely viewed as heretical by orthodox Christians of the time, had in part been the subject of an 1831 revelation that commanded missionaries to preach to the Shakers.10 These influences, as well as many others, may have led church members to discuss topics such as the nature of God and Jesus before this revelation was dictated.
This revelation was first published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. By 1839, JS appears to have expanded upon some of the teachings it contained. In a sermon that year, he reportedly said, “The spirit of man is not a created being: it existed from Eternity and will exist to Eternity. Any thing created cannot be eternal and Earth, water, &c all these had their existence in an elementary state from Eternity. Our Savior speaks of children and says their Angels always stand before my Father. The Father called all spirits before him at the creation of man and organized them.”11 A few years later he further explained, “God was a self exhisting being, man exhist upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & por spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself. … God has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences that they may be exhalted with himself.”12
Although three early manuscript versions of this revelation are extant, the one featured here, from the Newel K. Whitney collection, is most likely the earliest version. As the revelation was directed in part to Whitney, he likely received this copy immediately after it was dictated by JS. It is even possible that Whitney’s version is the original copy, recorded while JS dictated the revelation. In any case, the Whitney version is very closely related to the copy in Revelation Book 2, even including similar scribal errors and omissions. Orson Hyde recorded the copy in Revelation Book 2 as early as 1 June, though he most likely recorded the revelation after his appointment as scribe on 6 June 1833. Hyde apparently used Whitney’s copy of the revelation to create the Revelation Book 2 version. The copy found in Revelation Book 1 was almost certainly copied later than these two versions because that revelation book was still in Missouri with John Whitmer at this time. In a few places the version in Revelation Book 1 includes words and phrases not found in the other two versions, possibly reflecting some editorial changes made by Whitmer when he copied it into the book. In the following transcript, significant differences between versions in the revelation books and the version featured here are noted.
——Kirtland May 6— 1833——
Verely thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass, that evry soul who forsaketh their sins and cometh unto me13 and calleth on my name and obeyeth my voice and keepeth all my commandments shall see my face14 and know that I am15 and that I am the true light that lighteth evry man who16 cometh into the world;17 and that I am in the fathe[r] and the father in me and the fathe[r]18 and I are one19 the father because he gave me of his fulness20 and the son becaus I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle and dwelt among the sons of men21 I was in the world and received of my father, and the works of him were plainly manifest and John saw and bear record of the fulness of
his <my> glory and the fulness of Johns reccord is hereafter to be reveiled and he bear reccord saying I saw his glory that he was in the begining before the world was22 therefore in the beg[inn]ing the word was for he was the word even the messenger of salvation the light and the redeemer of the world23 the spirit of truth24 who came into the world25 becaus the world was made by him and in him was the <fife> light <Life> of men and the light of men the worlds were made by him [p. ] men were made by him all things were made by him and through him and of him26 and I, John bear reccord that I beheld his glory as the glory of the only begotten of the fathe[r] full of grace and truth even the spirit of truth which came and dwelt in flesh and dwelt among us27 and I John saw that he received not of the fulness at the first but received grace for grace and he received not of the fulness but continued from grace to grace until he received a fulness and thus he was called the son of God because he received not of the fulness at the first28 and I John bear reccord and lo the heavens were opened and the holy ghost decended upon him in the form of a dove and set upon him and there came a voice out of heaven saying this is my beloved son,29 and I John bear reccord that he received a fulness of the glory of the eternal God30 father and he receivd all power both in heaven and on earth31 and the glory of the father was with him for he dwelt in him and it shall come to pass that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the reccord of John I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship and know what you worship32 [p. ] that you may come unto the fathe[r] in my name and in due time receive of his fulness for if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness and be glor[i]fied in me as I am glor[i]fied in the father,33 therefore I say <unto> you you shall receive grace for grace34 and now verely I say unto you I was in the begining with the fathe[r] and am the first born35 and all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same and are the church of the first born,36 ye were also in the begining with the fathe[r] that which is Spirit even the spirit of truth and truth is knowledge of things as they are and as they were and as they are to come37 and whatsoever is more or less than these is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the begining38 the spirit of truth is of God, I am the spirit of truth, and John bear39 reccord of me say<ing> he received a fullness of truth yea even all truth and no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments he that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light untill he is glor[i]fied in truth and knoweth all things, man was also in the begining with God, inteligence40 or the Light of truth was not created or made neith[er] indeed can be all truth is independent in that sphere41 <in which God has placed it—> to act for itself as all inteligenc[e] also otherwise there is no existance behold here is the agency of man and here is the condemnation of man [p. ] because that which was from the begining is p[l]ainly manifest unto them and they receive not the light and evry man whose spirit rec[e]iveth not the light for man is spirit the Elements are eternal and spirit and element inseperably connected receiveth a fulness of Joy42 and when seperated man cannot receiv <a> fulness of Joy the elements are the tabernacle of God,43 yea man is the tabernacle of God even temples and whatsoeve[r] temple is defiled God shall distroy that temple,44 the glory of God is inteligence or in other words light & truth light and truth45 forsaketh that evil one evry spirit of man was innocent in the begining, and God having redeemed man from, the fall <man> became again in their infant state <innocent>46 before God and that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobeidienc [disobedience] from the children of men and becam[e]47 of the tradition of their fathers but I have commanded you to bring up your Children in light and truth, but verily I say unto you my servant Frederick [G. Williams] you have continued under this condemnation you have not taught your Children48 light and truth according to the Commandments49 and that wicked one hath power as yet over you and this is the caus of your affliction and now a commandment I give unto you and if ye will be delivered you shall set in order your own house50 for there are many things that are not right in your house verely I say unto my servant Sidney [Rigdon] [p. ] that in some things he hath not kept the commandments concerning his children51 therefore firstly set in order thy house, and verely I say unto my servant Joseph (or in othe[r] words I will call you friends) for ye are my friends)52 and ye shall have an inheritance with me I called you servants for the worlds sake and ye are their servants for my sake and now verely I say unto you Joseph you have not kept the commandments and must needs stand rebuked before the lord your family must needs repent and forsake some things and give more earnest heed unto your sayings or be removed out of their place what I say unto one I say unto all pray always lest that wicked one53 have power in you and remove you out of your place my servant Newel [K. Whitney] also the Bishop of my Church hath need to be chastened and set in order his family and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home and pray always or they shall be removed out of their place54 now I say unto you my friends let my servant Sidny go his Journey and make haste55 and also proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord56 and the gospel of salvation as I shall give him utterence and by your prayr of faith with one consent I will uphold him and let my servants Joseph & Frederick make haste also57 and it shall be given them even according to the prayer of faith58 [p. ] and inasmuch as you keep my sayings you shall not be confounded in this world nor in the world to come Am
and verely I say unto you that it is my will that ye should hasten to translate my Scriptures59 and to obtain a knowledg of history and of Countries and of Kingdoms and of laws, of
man & of God <God & man> and all these for the salvation of Zion60 Amen [p. ]