“Introduction and Statement of Editorial Procedures,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Introduction and Statement of Editorial Procedures,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
This study companion is a compilation and historical study of the earliest extant versions of Joseph Smith’s revelations and other texts now found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Drawn from the publications of the Joseph Smith Papers, this volume is designed for those looking to better understand the original text and historical background of this work of scripture. Such a study companion will be particularly useful for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaching or studying the Doctrine and Covenants at home and in Sunday School, seminary, or Institute courses. Because of the book’s rigorous scholarship, it will also be helpful to historians, religious studies specialists, and other scholars looking for information on this unique volume of Latter-day Saint scripture.
Almost all of the content in this collection has been taken from previous publications of the Joseph Smith Papers, an academic project publishing the transcripts of all of Joseph Smith’s extant papers, including his journals, histories, discourses, administrative records, and, of course, revelations. Information on the revelations is necessarily spread over multiple volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers and until now has not been conveniently accessible in one location. To create this volume, editors gathered from previous Joseph Smith Papers publications the transcripts and annotation of the texts now found in the Doctrine and Covenants and compiled the material into this one-volume study aid. The JSP Volume Correspondence Chart herein identifies the previous volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers from which each text included in this compilation was taken.
The texts found in this volume shed light on Joseph Smith’s role as “a seer & Translater & Prop[h]et”1 and his fundamental responsibility to receive the word of God for individuals and for the church as a whole. Even before the church was officially organized in 1830, Joseph Smith’s family and dozens of others accepted him as a divinely inspired revelator, and the notion of modern-day revelation drew many others to the nascent faith. As Richard Bushman has written, early converts “accepted the voice in the revelations as the voice of God, investing in the revelations the highest authority, even above Joseph Smith’s counsel. In the revelations, they believed, God himself spoke, not a man.”2 The belief that God was again speaking to His children led to a reverence for the revelations among the early believers. Church leaders undertook efforts to publish Joseph Smith’s revelations in the early 1830s, both in the church newspaper and in the Book of Commandments, a compilation of revelations that was aborted after a mob destroyed the Saints’ printing operation in 1833. A number of Joseph Smith’s revelations were then published in 1835 in a book called the Doctrine and Covenants, which was divided into two parts, the first comprising a series of seven doctrinal lectures on the subject of faith, and the second comprising the revelations organized in numbered sections (like chapters). Later Latter-day Saint editions expanded the canon, eventually adding a few documents that originated with church leaders other than Joseph Smith. The most recent major Latter-day Saint edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1981, with revisions to the section introductions and supplementary material in 2013.
The modern Latter-day Saint edition of the Doctrine and Covenants contains 156 individual revelations and other texts, combined and organized into 138 sections and two official declarations. Because the compilation presented here focuses on the Joseph Smith time period, it omits the material from later church leaders—sections 135, 136, and 138, and the two official declarations. Among the Joseph Smith–era sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, most originated as revelations expressed in the first-person voice of Deity. Some sections, however, are other types of texts, including official statements of church doctrine and practices, explanations of scripture, excerpts from Joseph Smith’s journal and histories, letters, meeting minutes, a dedicatory prayer, accounts of visions, and transcripts of discourses and oral instruction.
This study companion identifies and presents a transcript of the earliest complete text of each section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Each transcript is accompanied by an introduction and footnotes that place these documents in historical context. The introductions give such details as when and where a text originated, the question or other circumstances that led to its creation, how it was originally recorded and disseminated, and how early church members responded. Readers will also learn about the relationship between each section of the Doctrine and Covenants and other events and documents from the period, or about other cultural and religious movements of the time. Where applicable, footnotes also provide textual analysis, sometimes noting the differences between the featured version and another early version, allowing readers to see how and to what degree these texts changed in the early years of the church. Though the annotation may often help readers better understand the meaning of passages of the Doctrine and Covenants, this book is not intended to be a doctrinal commentary.
The contents of this book are organized by section number as found in the modern edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Each chapter title in this book presents the Doctrine and Covenants section number first, followed by the editorial title for each revelation or other text found in that section. These editorial titles were created and used by the Joseph Smith Papers Project and include the date on which the texts were created. Most sections contain only one text, though there are exceptions. Because the texts are arranged by section number, some of them are out of sequence chronologically in this book. For a complete list of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants organized by date of creation, see the chart titled Chronology of Texts in the Modern Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants herein.
The original texts transcribed in this volume either had no versification or had versification different than in the modern edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. To aid readers using this book as a study guide, versification corresponding to the modern edition has been added to the transcripts. The verse numbers appear in red, superscript type, surrounded by square brackets. Because of occasional textual differences between the original texts and their contemporary versions, where to place the verse numbers was not always apparent. Editors closely compared the original and modern versions of each text and placed the verse numbers where they made the most sense both textually and contextually.
This volume also includes two appendixes that explain how Joseph Smith’s revelations were first recorded, circulated, and published. The first appendix (previously published in volume 1 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers) provides information on Revelation Book 1 and Revelation Book 2, the manuscript books in which the earliest known versions of many of the revelations were recorded. The second appendix (previously published in volume 2 of the Revelations and Translations series) explains the publication history of the revelations, including the role church newspapers played in circulating the revelations, the canonization of the revelations, and the compiling and printing of the first editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion was first published as an e-book in 2016. At that time, the Joseph Smith Papers Project had completed work on the texts of 110 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. This expanded and updated edition, published in late 2020, includes the texts of all Joseph Smith–era sections.
The volume cites original sources where possible and practical. Secondary sources of sound scholarship are cited when they distill several primary sources or provide useful general context.
Certain conventions simplify the presentation of the annotation. Joseph Smith is usually referred to by the initials JS. Most sources are referred to by a shortened citation form, with a complete citation given in the Works Cited.
Source citations in this volume identify revelations by their original date. In cases in which two or more revelations bear the same date, a letter of the alphabet is appended to the date so that each revelation has a unique editorial title—for example, May 1829–A or May 1829–B. For revelations that were later canonized, revelation citations also include a bracketed “D&C” reference that provides the Doctrine and Covenants section and verse numbers that have been standard in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1876. A table titled Corresponding Section Numbers in Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants is provided following the Works Cited to help readers refer from the cited version of a canonized revelation to other published versions of the same revelation. For more information about revelation citations, see the aforementioned table and the introduction to the Works Cited.
In this volume, Joseph Smith’s revelations and revelatory translations published outside of the Doctrine and Covenants, such as the Book of Mormon, are referenced to early published or manuscript versions, with references to modern Latter-day Saint publications added in brackets. These books of Latter-day Saint scripture are described in more detail in the introduction to the Works Cited. When the Bible is used in annotation, the King James Version—the version read by Joseph Smith and his followers and contemporaries as well as by English-speaking Latter-day Saints today—is referenced. Footnotes in this volume identify where the featured texts quote, paraphrase, or otherwise refer to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith revelations, and other written works.
Many of the people whose names appear in the documents have been identified. Joseph Smith’s revelations, as originally inscribed, usually referred to people by their first names only. Within a few years, however, many last names were inserted into a text or added in a headnote to a text in preparation for publication. Many of the last names supplied in square brackets in the transcripts presented in this volume have been derived from such later sources in a general fashion, without footnote citations. Other instances of supplied last names have been inferred from the historical context of the document, again without documentation. In most cases, information about people named in the documents appears in the online Biographical Directory at josephsmithpapers.org/reference/people rather than in the notes. Some names have silently been left without identification either because resources did not permit research or because no information was found.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project employs a conservative method of transcription in which the text of each document is verified three times. For details on the transcription method, see the Joseph Smith Papers website.
In documents inscribed by more than one person, the slash mark indicates a change in handwriting. A footnote identifies the previous and commencing scribes.
Modern versification has been editorially supplied in the texts. These verse numbers are rendered in italicized, superscript numbers enclosed in square brackets.
Brackets enclose editorial insertions that expand, correct, or clarify the text. This convention may be applied to the abbreviated or incorrect spelling of a personal name, such as Brigham Yo[u]ng, or of a place, such as Westleville [Wesleyville]. Obsolete or ambiguous abbreviations are expanded with br[acket]s. Bracketed editorial insertions also provide reasonable reconstructions of badly miss[p]elled worsd [words]. Missing or illegible words may be supplied within brackets in cases where the supplied word is based on textual or contextual evidence. Bracketed punctuation is added only when necessary to follow complex wording.
A question mark is added to conjectured editorial insertions, such as where an entire word was [accidentally?] omitted and where it is difficult to maintain the sense of a sentence without some editorial insertion.
Significant descriptions of the writing medium—especially those inhibiting legibility—and of spacing between the inscriptions are italicized and enclosed in brackets: [hole burned in paper], [leaf torn], [blank], [9 lines blank], [pages 99–102 blank].
An illegible word is represented by the italicized word [illegible] enclosed in brackets.
An illegible character within a partially legible word is rendered with a hollow diamond. Repeated diamonds represent the approximate number of illegible characters (for example: sto◊◊◊◊s).
Bracketed editorial insertions indicate the end of an originally numbered page, regardless of the location of the page number on the original page. No page indicator is given for the last page of a document if the document was transcribed from a multiple-entry source (such as an article from a newspaper or a letter from a letterbook) and if there is text following the featured document on that same page.
Bracketing of the page number itself indicates that the manuscript page was not originally numbered and that the number of the page is editorially supplied.
Underlining is typographically reproduced. Individually underlined words are distinguished from passages underlined with one continuous line.
Superscription is typographically reproduced.
A single horizontal strikethrough bar is used to indicate any method of cancellation: strikethrough and cross-out, wipe erasure and knife erasure, overwriting, or other methods.
Insertions in the text—whether interlinear, intralinear, or marginal—are enclosed in angle brackets. Letter<s> and other characters individual<ly> insert<ed> at the beginning or end of a word are distinguished from <words> inserted in <their> entirety.
Joseph Smith’s handwriting is rendered in boldface type. Bracketed editorial insertions made within passages of Joseph Smith’s own h[and]writing are also rendered in boldface type.
Stylized brackets represent -[brackets]- used in the original text.
An envelope symbol signifies the beginning of a mailing address, postmark, or address panel on an original letter.
In Doctrine and Covenants 121–123, passages that are grayed out are not part of the canonized text.
The word TEXT begins textual footnotes describing significant details not comprehended by this scheme of symbolic transcription.
A line break artificially imposed in an original document is rendered as a vertical line in textual notes.
When the texts included in this volume were previously published in the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, they were accompanied by a rich assortment of reference material, including biographical entries, geographical descriptions, maps, and charts of church organization. That reference material is available in the Reference and Media sections of the Joseph Smith Papers website. High-resolution, color images of most of the documents transcribed in this volume are also available on that website, organized by date in the Documents series. Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the historical background to the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants may wish to consult the volumes of the Documents series. More historical information on the revelations can also be found in the Revelations in Context section of Gospel Library.
Along with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants is one of the most enduring legacies of Joseph Smith. It is key to understanding the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the life of its founder and first president. The revelations found in this book of scripture contain doctrines and instructions—including guidelines on church organization and administration, the “Word of Wisdom,” the three levels of heavenly glory, and more—that have become fundamental to the Latter-day Saint religion. This study companion provides valuable insight into Joseph Smith’s role as a revelator and into many of the texts that form the bedrock of Latter-day Saint history.