Joseph Smith Papers (1)

I started reading The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 1: July 1828 – June 1831 which is available right now for a reduced price at Deseret Book for only $20. They also sell this at FAIR Mormon if you read this blog late and the price is back to it’s regular ticket on DB. I’d recommend buying it, incase anybody was wondering, and reading it through.

Martin Harris at age 87, more than 40 years after he lost the Manuscript. (Wikimedia Commons)

Today, I read the introduction to the papers and Part One. The introduction basically explains the main functions of the book, some of the project details, and others fun stuff like that. I’d recommend reading through that if you haven’t already read through another introduction of The Joseph Smith Papers series. The information is invaluable.

Getting into Part One, I noticed that the format for each part of the book is especially interesting. At the beginning of Part One, the authors create a basic intro to said part. After the introduction, they give a “Source Note” on the document that is about to be presented. After, they give a “Historical Introduction,” in which they put the document in historical context, and finally include the “Document Transcript.” This was consistent, of course, with all three of the documents included in the print.

Anyways, Part one included three documents known as Revelations. Two of these revelations were given to Martin Harris, and one was given to Joseph Smith Sr. (father of Joseph Smith Jr., the prophet).

The first revelation is to Martin Harris (also found in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 3) from Joseph Smith Jr. Before this revelation was issued, Martin Harris was pressing Joseph to let him take home the manuscripts so he can satisfy his wife’s skepticism regarding Joseph Smith’s claims. Twice, Martin asks Joseph to consider letting take the manuscript. Through prayer and meditation, Joseph received a constant answer from the Lord that he should not let Martin take the manuscript. Martin, unsatisfied with this answer, asked one more time. Joseph inquires of the Lord and receives a different answer and receives a confirmation that he should let Martin take these to his wife, Lucy.

Shortly after Martin Harris left to New York, manuscript in hand, Joseph’s wife, Emma Hale Smith, gave birth to a son who was stillborn or died shortly after birth. Emma, devastated by this reality, spoke very little for the three weeks that Joseph Smith spent caring for his wife. When Emma started recovering, she encouraged Joseph Smith to seek out the missing Martin Harris. Soon after arriving at his parents house in New York, Joseph learned that Martin had lost the manuscripts. Joseph was quite upset with this fact. He cried and groaned, in the words of his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, “like a tender infant.”

After Joseph returned to Harmony, a heavenly being confiscated the Urim and Thummim. Shortly after, Joseph enquired of the Lord and obtained the revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) section 3. Historians aren’t sure how the text was written to paper. It’s possible that Joseph Smith wrote this one down himself, or that he dictated it to family. The earliest copy, which is where The Joseph Smith Papers draws from, is found in Revelation Book 1 by John Whitmer, likely in 1831.

The revelation itself speaks of the rebuking of Joseph Smith, and the transgression of Martin Harris. Indeed, the Lord was angry with Joseph. But, in His anger, He reminded Joseph that “God is merciful therefore repent of  that which thou hast done & he will only cause thee  to be afflicted for a season.” Although Joseph made a mistake, a grave one at that, The Lord reminds Joseph that he is still chosen to do the Lord’s work.

The second document found in Part One is a revelation directed towards Joseph Smith Sr. (Found in D&C 4).

I don’t feel it necessary to delve into this matter too deeply. The revelation discusses what Joseph Smith Sr. ought to do to bring forth the work of the Lord. One of the points found in the revelation reads as follows, written in Red: “remember temperance patience humility diligence &C.” This is quite different than what is found in the modern version of the Doctrine and Covenant, written in Blue:

“Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance,patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility,diligence.” 

The footnote to the online version reads as follows, written in Green: 

“This “etcetera” likely signaled to readers that it was standing in for the fuller description in 2 Peter 1:5–7. Later, editors of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants replaced “&C” with the entire list of virtues from 2 Peter: “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.” (Doctrine and Covenants 31:2, 1835 ed. [D&C 4:6].)”

Just an interesting difference that I thought I’d point out.

The final document found in Part One is another revelation given to Martin Harris (also found in D&C 5).

I also won’t include a detailed historical context for this one. Still, I will introduce interesting information regarding the documents. Martin Harris wanted a witness of the Book of Mormon plates, he was quite skeptical of Joseph Smith’s claims. Constantly, he asked Joseph Smith for some sort of proof to satisfy his wife’s fears that Joseph Smith was conning him. Though he was not allowed to view the plates in March 1829, the revelation allayed his doubts. The revelation promised Martin Harris that he could see the plates if he humbled himself. “I have commanded him that he should stand as A witness of these things.” The online version can be found here.

To my readers, I would encourage you to compare the online version of these documents (the online version consists of photos of the earliest texts available) and the modern day scriptures and take note of the differences. Pay close attention to the footnotes, for they usually give insight on why certain changes were made. Some changes that don’t include footnotes can be figures by common sense. For example, “I have commanded him that he should stand as A witness of these things” in the online version reads “I have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things” in the modern text. (Differences marked in Blue).


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