Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Book of Commandments vs. The Doctrine and Covenants

I recently received a question on one of my blogs in reference to the Book of Commandments. The individual asked:
How do you reconcile or refute others when they bring up the scripture in D&C 5 about JS "pretending to no other gift" and they are quoting from Book of Commandments not a 1835 version or later?
This is an excellent question, and since it deals with the integrity of Joseph, I thought it would be a good subject for a new blog.

The Book of Commandments Issue

Throughout the years the issue of using the revelations in the Book of Commandments instead of the corresponding ones in the Doctrine and Covenants has surfaced many times in the RLDS Church. Indeed, there are substantial differences between many of the same revelations in both books. Because the revelations in the Book of Commandments were printed first and they were allegedly copied from the originals, many assume these revelations are correct, or true. In addition, they also assume that the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants differ from those in the Book of Commandments because they were changed by Joseph to support his evolving theology. Thus, some point to the Book of Commandments as the more pure doctrine of the Restoration, while others say the discrepancy between the revelations in the two books is proof Joseph was not a prophet of God but was making up church doctrine as he went along.

Answering the Question

Before I get into the explanation of which set of revelations is correct, I wish to address the specific difference mentioned in the above question. According to Book of Commandments 4:2:
...and he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] has a gift to translate the book and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.
The same part of the revelation found in RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 5:1d (LDS D&C 5:4) states:
And you have a gift to translate the plates, and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.
By using a little logic it is obvious to me which version of this revelation is correct, or true. As we look at the life and ministry of Joseph Smith, Jr., God bestowed on him many gifts. Among other things, he was a prophet, seer, and revelator to the Church and at various times in his adult life expressed all the gifts of the Spirit as enumerated in D&C 46. After he finished the translation of the Book of Mormon, by the power of God he corrected the Bible which was published by the RLDS Church as the Inspired Version. And he led the priesthood and members of the Church to receive a partial endowment of the Spirit at the Kirtland Temple in 1836. So to me, it is obvious that the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants is correct because he received gifts from God in his life other than the gift to translate the plates of the Book of Mormon.

The Sources

Because I did not know the intricacies of this subject very well, I had to quickly find sources to use as a basis for this blog. I chose to use two RLDS sources because the information in them seems to be well documented and I am familiar with the integrity of the authors. However, there may be LDS sources just as good as these of which I am not aware. The first is the pamphlet, Book of Commandments Versus the Doctrine and Covenants, reviewed by President Joseph Smith, III, which is a cursory presentation of the subject. The second is the book, Our Beliefs Defended, by Apostle J. F. Curtis, which contains a discussion of the subject in detail. Both of these sources can be purchased online from the Restoration Bookstore by clicking the above links for the respective sources. Since my explanation will be a very brief summary of the issues, I strongly recommend the purchase of these sources for those wanting a more complete study of this subject with full documentation.

The Explanation of which Set of Revelations Is Correct

On November 1, 1831, a special conference was held in Hiram, Ohio, where Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were preparing the Inspired Version of the Bible. This conference discussed and decided to print all of the revelations received by Joseph. On the above date, Joseph received a revelation which the Lord designated as the preface to the Book of Commandments (D&C 1). After this revelation was received, the language of all the revelations was questioned by the elders and some felt they could use better language than Joseph did. As a result, the Lord spoke to the elders through Joseph (D&C 67) challenging the elders to choose the greatest among them to write a revelation better than the least of all the revelations Joseph had written. In response to the challenge, William E. McLellin (who, according to Joseph, felt he was the wisest man among them) was chosen to write the revelation, but he failed. It was then decided that Joseph should prepare the revelations for printing (make copies from the originals) and send the copies with Oliver Cowdery to Independence where W. W. Phelps would print and publish them in the Book of Commandments. The Lord appointed Joseph, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and William W. Phelps "to be stewards over the revelations and commandments which I have given unto them, and which I shall hereafter give unto them..." (RLDS D&C 70:1 and LDS D&C 70:1-3).

From the beginning date of the conference to when Oliver left for Missouri with John Whitmer on November 10, Joseph had only 10 days to copy all the revelations received to date. While the Lord had designated the above six men to do the work, there is some discrepancy who actually prepared the copies. David Whitmer said that Joseph, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, and others prepared the revelations for publication. William E. McLellin stated that he presided over the meeting where the revelations were prepared for publication. He also stated that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon copied the revelations but changed them to suit themselves. However, this was not true. During this ten day period, Joseph attended four conferences. While he stated that he and John Whitmer "began to arrange and copy the revelations" (Our Beliefs Defended, 27; Millennial Star, vol. 14, supplement, 36), because of the conference activities, Joseph would have had very little time to do any of this work. In addition, prior to the preparation of the revelations, Oliver Cowdery left Hiram to prepare for the trip to Missouri and W. W. Phelps left for Independence making a stop in Cincinnati to purchase the printing press. Thus, while William E. McLellin may have presided over the preparation process, Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and W. W. Phelps had very little, if anything, to do with this work. Thus, according to J. F. Curtis, William E. McLellin may have been directly involved in changing the revelations when copying them. McLellin admitted that he presided over the work and that the copies of the revelations were changed before being sent to Independence for printing. Since he was the one who thought he could improve the revelations, Curtis believed he had motive to make the changes. While it is really unknown who changed the revelations, it is certain that the copies were changed prior to sending them to Independence and that Joseph was not the one who changed them.

After the revelations were prepared, they were taken by Oliver Cowdery to Independence where W. W. Phelps began to print them for inclusion in the Book of Commandments. During the printing the mob in Independence destroyed the press and strewed printed revelations in the street. After the assault, the printed revelations were gathered up and loosely bound into several copies. The printing of the Book of Commandments was never completed. What exists today as the Book of Commandments are those revelations which were loosely bound after the press was destroyed.

After the mob action against the press in Independence, Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer returned to Kirtland and compared the original revelations to the copies they had been given for the Book of Commandments. They found that the copies were substantially different than the originals.

When the revelations were prepared for the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, great care was taken to ensure that the revelations published were exactly the same as the original ones. Many who were on the committee for publishing the Book of Commandments were on the committee for publishing the Doctrine and Covenants. By the time the Doctrine and Covenants was published, all who were on the Book of Commandments committee approved the revelations printed in the Doctrine and Covenants as correct according to the originals. In addition, all the quorums of the Church (including McLellin in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) plus the General Assembly approved the revelations printed in the Doctrine and Covenants as correct. Because the Book of Commandments was destroyed in mid-printing, it was never approved by the quorums or the General Assembly. Thus, it was never an authorized publication of the Church. Only the revelations in Doctrine and Covenants were approved by a vote of the people and the quorums of the Church. For these reasons plus the fact that the revelations in the Book of Commandments are inconsistent with the originals, the Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelations which are correct.


  1. This whole idea has given me a new angle in which to look at the account of the mob action from. Perhaps the Lord wasn't too happy about the revelations being altered like that.

    When I have time I'll have to do a little follow-up research and find out what happened to William E. McLellin over the course of the rest of his life.

  2. Hi Dave P.--

    Thanks for the post. You raise a very interesting point. The mob action to destroy the press in Independence certainly kept the revelations in the Book of Commandments from becoming the authorized versions. Once printed, however, they may have had the same scrutiny as did the revelations in the D&C prior to authorization by the Church. According to Curtis' book, Cowdery, Whitmer, and Phelps did compare the originals with the copies after they returned to Kirtland. The mob action, though, settled the issue and took the sting out of any resulting scandal.

    I thought I would save you some time about McLellin. I found a brief biography of him in the RLDS History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 650-651:

    "William E. McLellin was the seventh of the apostles chosen, but in the final arrangement he was the sixth. He was born in Tennessee about the year 1806. In 1831 he heard the gospel preached by some of the elders while they were on their way to Missouri. As soon as he could arrange his business he followed them to Independence and was baptized by Hyrum Smith. He afterwards visited Kirtland and did considerable missionary work in different places. On July 3, 1834, he was chosen a member of the High Council of Zion, in Clay County, Missouri. Soon after he went again to Kirtland, where he was engaged for a time as a teacher in the school of the elders. He was ordained an apostle in February, 1835. On May 11,1838, he was expelled from the church at Far West, Missouri, for apostasy; and during the trouble in Missouri he used all his influence against the leaders of the church. In 1845 he was identified with the movement under Rigdon, warmly endorsed his claims, and on April 8 of that year was appointed one of the Twelve Apostles in Rigdon's organization. In 1847 he with others at Kirtland, Ohio, effected an organization which they claimed was a reorganization of the church, and called on David Whitmer to assume the presidency, claiming that he was ordained by Joseph Smith on the 8th of July, 1834, as his successor. In March, 1847, Elder McLellin, by the authority of this organization, commenced the publication of a paper at Kirtland, called The Ensign of Liberty, in which he contended that the proper name of the church was "The Church of Christ," and advocated the claims of David Whitmer as President of the Church. In 1847 Elder McLellin went west, and in September called on David Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, and Hiram Page, at Richmond, Missouri, who accompanied him to Far West, to visit John Whitmer. The five counseled together, and during their counsel received several communications through David Whitmer. As a result of this counsel and instruction given in these revelations through David Whitmer, Elder McLellin, who had previously been rebaptized at Kirtland, Ohio, rebaptized these four men and reordained them high priests, and also ordained David Whitmer to the Presidency, and John Whitmer to be his counselor. This organization so far as we know was short lived, and after struggling in vain to perpetuate it, the participants abandoned the effort. Elder McLellin finally settled at Independence, Missouri, where he died on Tuesday, March 13, 1883."

  3. Sounds like a classic case of "Pride goeth before the fall," to me. From the post itself, it indeed sounds like McLellin volunteered himself as being the wisest among the elders vs. the rest of the group selecting him: that right there could well be what analysts would call the start of his fall. No matter how wise a person may be, to think that you know more than God and to seriously believe that is definitely never a good thing. Sadly, it looks like McLellin did not learn the lesson that the Lord tried to teach him. At least he lived a full life.

  4. I also find it interesting that in the Book of Commandments verse, that the revelation (received by Joseph) mentions Joseph as "he" and "him." Meanwhile, the Doctrine and Covenants version uses "you" to describe Joseph, which, given the context of the revelation and the fact God definitely knows who he's talking to, makes much more sese than the third person used in the Book of Commandments.

  5. Anonymous—

    This was a very astute observation. I wonder if it applies to the other revelations in the Book of Commandments or other revelations in question such as the one on celestial marriage (LDS D&C 132). This would be an interesting study.

  6. The following is taken from the June 19, 1844 issue of the 'Nauvoo Neighbor' in relation to the City Council minutes from the 10th regarding the 'Nauvoo Expositor'. I'm getting this from a photo-copy of the original. (all markings as in original)

    "Mayor said if he had a city council who felt as he did, the establishment (referring to the Nauvoo Expositor) would be a nuisance before night- and he then read an editorial from the Nauvoo Expositor. He then asked who ever said a word against Judege Emmons until he has attacked this council-or even against Joseph H. Jackson or the Laws, until they came out against the city? Here is a paper (Nauvoo Expositor) that is exciting out enemies abroad. Joseph H. Jackson had been proved a murderer before this council, and declared the paper a nuisance, a greater nuisance than a dead carcase-they make a criminality, for a man to have a wife on the earth, while he has one in heaven, according to the keys of the holy priesthood-and he then read a statement of William Law's from the Expositor, where the truth of God was transformed into a lie concerning this thing-He then read several statements of Austin Cowles in the Expositor concerning a private interview, and said he never had any private conversation with Austin Cowles on these subjects-that he preached on the stand from the bible, shewing the order in ancient days, having nothing to do with the present times. What the opposition party want, is to raise a mob on us and take the spoil from us, as they did in Missouri-he said it was as much as he could do, to keep his clerk, Thompson, from publishing the proceedings of the Law's and causing the people to rise up against them-said he would rather die tomorrow and have the thing smashed, than live and have it go on, for it was exciting the spirit of mobocracy among the people and bringing death and destruction upon us."

    "Councillor H. Smith proceede4d to show the falsehood of Austin Cowles in the "Expositor," in relation to the revelation referred to, that it was in reference to former days and not the present time as related by Cowles. Mayor said he had never preached the revelation in private, as he had in public-had not taught it to the anointed in the church in private, which statement many present confirmed that on enquiring concerning the passage in the resurrection concerning 'they neither marry nor are given in marriage, &c. he received for answer-men in this life must marry in view of eternity, otherwise they must remain as angels or be single in heaven, , which was the [word was crossed-out & 'doctrine' written in at bottom of page] of the revelation referred to, and that Mayor spoke at considerable length in explanation of this principle and was willing for one to subscribe his name, to declare the Expositor and whole establishment a nuisance."
    "Councillor, H. Smith, continued, Jackson, told him, he (Jackson,) meant to have his daughter; and threatened him if he made any resistance....
    -referred to the revelation, read to the High Council of the Church, which has caused so much talk about a multiplicity of wives; that said Revelation was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days, and had no reference to the present time. That when sick, Wm. Law, confessed to him that he had been "guilty of adultery," and "was not fit to live," and had "sinned against his own soul,"&c. ..."

  7. It's my understanding the LDS/Mormon church claims a copy of a copy for LDS D&C 132. Brigham Young claimed on Aug. 29, 1852 that Emma Smith burned the original after pressing Joseph for it. Emma flatly denied any such thing & said she first saw what became 132 (added to the LDS D&C in 1876) published in 'The Seer' by Orson Pratt (1852?).

  8. Very simply regarding the character of Joseph Smith, he was human much like King David of old! Joseph Smith was warned against "following his own will and CARNAL DESIRES...or he would fall" (D&C 3:1-11)
    The Lord also declared that Joseph Smith many times feared man more than God and sinned many times (D&C 3:1-11). The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that polygamy is "abominable" and it does NOT matter who does it, whether King David or his son Solomon (or Abraham or Joseph Smith) it is an abominable practice and if ANYONE does whoremongering e.g. polygamy then it is because they misunderstand the scriptures and want to do evil (Jacob 2:23-24). The Nephites and the Jaredites were destroyed due to polygamy and the Lamanites in the end were more righteous than the Nephite (who were destroyed) because they only had one wife whom they loved and they loved their children. D&C 132 was embellished and NOT politically added until 1857 to justify polygamy!
    Award-winning LDS Historian, D. Michael Quinn doing exact research of LDS church history found that Joseph Smith REPENTED of polgamy and burned the original manuscript which he stated was not of God and he REPENTED of satanic Masonry just before he was Masonically murdered. The Masonic blood oath requires a blood oath of secrecy and loyalty and is still done in all LDS temples today even though the penalty is not shown (after 1990~taken out) but is still "assumed".
    Prior to 1990, we had to mimic slitting our throats, cutting out our hearts, and cutting out our intestines if we told the secrets of the temple! Please read Moses 5:29 which clearly shows how blood oaths began with Satan teaching Cain to take a satanic blood oath for Abel to be delivered up to be murdered.
    Jesus Christ (greater than Joseph Smith) taught us to NEVER swear "by our head or by only say yea, yea or nay, anything more than this comes of evil" (New Testament in many places). A profound near death experience showed very clearly why the Lord's House needs to be cleansed. It's very "plain and precious" (1 Ne 13)...

  9. Seek Truth over Tradition on,,,

  10. Karen, thanks for the post. Wow, you gave a lot of information. I agree with you that the Lord does not sanction polygamy as indicated in Jacob 2. However, as stated on this site and in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, I don’t believe that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy. I’m unsure if the Nephites and Jaredites were destroyed because of polygamy. I don’t remember the Book of Mormon stating that. I do remember that Jacob preached to the Nephites on the subject because they were thinking about practicing it, but I don’t think they had actually started at the time of his sermon. And I don’t believe there is a reference to the subject after his sermon, so I assume the Nephites didn’t put their thoughts into action.

    Since my faith background is RLDS, I’m unfamiliar with LDS temple ceremonies and as such I don’t feel qualified to comment on them. Maybe someone else who is familiar with them wants to weigh in on this.

  11. I didn't know you were RLDS!
    Since Joseph Smith REPENTED of polygamy before he died as evidenced by historical records (D. Michael Quinn) it would be as IF he had not practiced it. King David also practiced polygamy and hopefully repented. Joseph Smith was human and not always in tune with God as God told him time after time (D&C 3:1-11, etc.). We can learn from this to not put any person on a pedestal as everyone should have a relationship with God for themselves. End point would be since Joseph did repent, he would have been forgiven for that.
    However, had he obeyed the promptings of the Spirit of God to "flee to the Rocky Mountains" to repent of all of his and the condemned church's "follies and abominations which ye do practice before me" (D&C 124:48) then the "Lord's House" would have gotten cleaned up at that point.
    Instead, he listened to the words of friends and family rather than to God (free agency like Moses who also sinned) and so "went to a Lamb to slaughter" even though historically (research it) he did use a gun in defense before crying out a Masonic oath as he jumped from the window of the Carthage Jail. As you can tell, I come from a LDS viewpoint and know that polygamy is still believed in the LDS church (abominably) and practiced with "Celestial Sealings" in all LDS Temples of men to many wives (divorced or dead), whereas women are still 2nd class citizens aka possessions.
    I must congratulate you as a RLDS person (nonpolygamist) in recognizing the extreme evil of Brigham Young (33rd degree infiltrating Mason) who according to book written on the Masonic murder of Joseph and a PROFOUND NDE (see my websites) had Joseph Smith murdered due to his belated, but much needed repentance. Also, you allow the women to hold the priesthood. Whatever the motivation for this move (Pres. Wallace Smith had no sons), it is of God! In the "pure" years of the Church of Christ (earliest pure name of the church and from which we both descended ~ LDS/RLDS), women DID hold the priesthood as did ALL Blacks aka Elijah Abel, etc. Award-winning LDS historian, D. Michael Quinn was excommunicated for publishing a pamphlet on the women holding the priesthood in the "pure" years of the church via historical FACT!
    In regards to your statement that the Nephites didn't practice polygamy (to your knowledge). They most certainly did! "...the word of God burdens me (Jacob) because of your grosser crimes...committing whoredoms..." and "...the Lamanites...are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord...that they should have save it were one wife..." (Jacob 3:5) ALSO, "the people of Nephi...began to indulge unto David of old desiring many wives and condubines"
    The Jaredites were also destroyed for polygamy and I'll let you find that reference!
    Anyway, thank you for treating women with the same equality that God does. The 24 "elders" as mentioned in Revelations regarding the Millennium will be 12 women and 12 men of pure heart. Since God allows free agency on this earth, women, due to the unrighteous dominion of men and misinterpretation of God's teachings have been suppressed. The ensuing evil of the world is evident by the dishonoring of women.

    The LDS Church certainly is wicked and the "great and abominable church" at this time. Heaven is no longer holding back as evident in many adverse events they have experienced as of late (Provo Tabernacle burned, other "great and spacious buildings", etc.).
    Seek truth no matter the TRADITION! Thanks for allowing me to post! May you be blessed for allowing truth. and

  12. Thank you for allowing me to post on your original question.
    The Book of Commandments is more PURE than the Doctrine & Covenants and Joseph Smith should have heeded the counsel of God to AVOID "pretending to no other gift" Joseph Smith was human and God knew Joseph that he would "pretend" to have other gifts. He should have stayed on track with the original Book of Mormon (1830 version) and the Book of Commandments and not spent time on the Bible (never completed and not commanded by God to do that) or to "translate" the Book of Abraham which has been proved to be a pretentious and false interpretation. Joseph Smith when off course (7 good years and 7 bad years aka 2 Nephi 3, type and shadow of Joseph of Egypt's interpretation of the Pharoah's dream) did harm to the purity and importance of the Book of Mormon as a 2nd witness of Christ! My knowledge comes from a profound NDE preceded by a mother's three prophetic dreams (recorded in journals) and personal knowledge of scriptures and God.

  13. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your post. In my response to your previous post, I stated, “Jacob preached to the Nephites on the subject [polygamy] because they were thinking about practicing it, but I don’t think they had actually started at the time of his sermon.” I was basing this on the statement he made at the beginning of Chapter 2:

    “For behold, as yet, ye have been obedient unto the word of the Lord, which I have given unto you. But behold, hearken ye unto me, and know that by the help of the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, I can tell you concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me, yea, and abominable unto God. Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts; And also, it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech, concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceeding tender, and chaste, and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God….”

    To me this means they were in the process of thinking about it and not practicing it. And when he told them about their wicked desires, it would be a big shock to their wives and children. But even if they were in the beginning phases of practicing it, to me it is obvious that they stopped because it is not mentioned again as something of which they needed to repent. And they were not destroyed for about another 800 years from the time of Jacob’s sermon. If they continued to desire or practice polygamy, they would have been destroyed sooner because of the warning the Lord gave them through Jacob. In addition, there is no mention by Mormon or Moroni that polygamy was a reason for the destruction of the Nephites.

    As far as the Book of Commandments vs. the Doctrine and Covenants, I think my post on this subject pretty well explains that the Book of Commandments had errors in it because it hadn’t been properly reviewed and compared to the original revelations prior to being published. I’ve written a few articles for publication in a magazine and know that before publication they need to be compared to the original to make sure they are correct. Interestingly, I’ve found parts of paragraphs inadvertently left out which changed the meaning of the article. So I know from personal experience that printings need to be compared with originals. Thus, I’m not surprised that the original printing of the Book of Mormon needed to be compared the manuscript and corrected or that the Book of Commandments was in error because it wasn’t compared to the original revelations.

    While I respect your opinion that Joseph practiced polygamy and then repented of it, I do not agree with it. I do not believe he taught or practiced polygamy at all. See Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy at for over two volumes of information supporting this position.

    And finally, I wish to make a point of clarification. I am associated with the Restoration Branches Movement of the RLDS Church, not the Community of Christ. It is the Community of Christ that supports the ordination of women. Personally, I would have no problem with women being ordained to the priesthood if this is what God wanted. However, it is very plain in the Doctrine and Covenants that the right of priesthood is passed from father to son lineal descent. The ordination of women in the Community of Christ is a change in that position and I don’t believe God is changeable.

    Thanks again for your comments. Hope you had a blessed Christmas and have a happy new year.

  14. There are records stating that women need no conferring of the priesthood. It is given to them in the pre-mortal life. They should be ordained only after ratification from the Holy Ghost. People do not understand priesthood and what the power actually is. Denying women who already hold it is only prideful. I come from an LDS background; however, praying to know more light and knowledge has been flowing in heaps since 2008-9. It has opened up new worlds to me. whether Joseph did this or that is moot at this point. He was like unto Moses and sinned as well. The Church was turned over to Satan as portrayed in the D&C and a strong delusion became present. Joseph however was a beautiful spirit and was gracious in life. Whether he sinned or not does not preclude that. It is up to us to know the Spirit enough to put our lives in harmony, not with the Church, but with the Lord. Then all things shall be made known unto us. It is happening.

  15. Thank you for this initial explanation. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) I try always to research and ask God for the answers to questions I am confronted with. time and time again this combination of prayer and research has confirmed my testimony of the restoration and the truthfulness of his church.

    It is reassuring to find again and again that no matter what the haters do they cannot destroy the gospel. The mob thought they were destroying the work, while in reality they were helping the Lord to maintain the integrity and purity of His word. This has been really helpful as a first step in my research on this issue.


    1. Clare:

      Interesting observation about the destruction of the Book of Commandments. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. Since the Joseph Smith Papers project released images of the manuscripts of the revelations, you are clearly incorrect in suggesting or implying that the Doctrine and Covenants is closer to the original revelations than the Book of Commandments was. I won't give an exhaustive list here, but the following three links (all from LDS websites) will demonstrate that your argument needs to be redacted.

    Compare D&C Section 27 with Chapter 28 of the Book of Commandments and the respective revelation manuscript:
    Note: notice how in D&C 27 that verses 5, 14, and 15 have been modified and notice how verses 6-13 and 16-18 are completely missing from both the revelation manuscript as well as the Book of Commandments.

    D&C 27

    Book of Commandments, chapter 28!/paperSummary/book-of-commandments-1833&p=64

    Revelation manuscript!/paperSummary/revelation-book-1&p=19

    If you were to do an honest investigation, you'll come to know that the Book of Commandments is far more faithful to the original revelation manuscripts than the D&C.

  17. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for commenting and bringing up an interesting observation. I’ve looked at the links you provided as well as the Manuscript Revelation Books Facsimile Edition of The Joseph Smith Papers. This is the reproduction and transcripts of Revelation Book 1 and 2. For those that may not know, these two revelation books contain Joseph’s revelations from 1828 to 1834 copied from the originals mainly by John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Frederick G. Williams. The editors of this volume of The Joseph Smith Papers believe that Revelation Book 1 was used as a source for the Book of Commandments. Since the vast majority of the originally recorded revelations presently do not exist, Revelations Book 1 and 2 are currently the oldest copies of these revelations. Thus Nathan, as you indicated, it is easy to conclude that if the revelations in the Book of Commandments match Revelation Book 1 and the Doctrine and Covenants does not, then the Book of Commandments is more correct than the Doctrine and Covenants. However, I do not believe this is a correct conclusion according to all of the evidence in this matter.

    The issue of whether the Book of Commandments is more correct than the Doctrine and Covenants is about what happened after the publication of the Book of Commandments was stopped due to the destruction of the press by the mob in Independence. Having no press to continue the publication, the publishing committee (Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer) returned to Kirtland. Upon their return, they reviewed their copies of the revelations with the original manuscripts for the revelations. According to Oliver Cowdery pertaining to the revelations printed in Independence:

    “On the revelations we merely say that we were not a little surprised to find the previous print so different from the original. We have given them a careful comparison, assisted by individuals whose known integrity and ability is uncensurable. Thus saying we cast no reflections upon those who were intrusted with the responsibility of publishing them in Missouri, as our own labors were included in that important service to the church and it was our unceasing endeavor to have them correspond with the copy furnished us. We believe they are now correct” (Evening and Morning Star, Kirtland Reprint, vol. 1, p. 16; Our Beliefs Defended, J. F. Curtis, p. 31).

    This publically printed statement by Oliver Cowdery, who was involved in the printing process of the revelations in Independence and Kirtland, is conclusive evidence that the revelations printed in Independence—whether in the Evening and Morning Star or Book of Commandments—were significantly different than the originals. Consequently, the continued printing of the Book of Commandments was scrapped (only a few copies of what had been printed were bound unofficially by individuals, but never approved by the vote of the quorums or membership) and preparation began for printing the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. This preparation included comparing the revelations to the original manuscripts, which existed then but not now.


    1. (continued from above)

      The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was approved as correct by the leading quorums of the Church as well as the General Assembly (Our Beliefs Defended, J. F. Curtis, p. 32–37). All of those on the Book of Commandments committee approved the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants as well as all those who copied the original revelations into Revelation Book 1 and 2. John Whitmer himself, who was the main scribe for Revelation Book 1, stated in print in 1836, “I know that the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants contain the revealed will of heaven” (Messenger and Advocate, March 1836, vol. 2, p. 287). Thus, the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants—compared to the originals and approved by all the Church including those who worked on the Book of Commandments—is the most correct version of the revelations received by Joseph until that time. Since the vast majority of the originals do not exist today and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was prepared according to the originals, it—not the Book of Commandments and not Revelation Books 1 and 2—is the closest record we have today to the original revelations.

      Nathan, you are correct in stating that LDS D&C 27 (RLDS D&C 26) has a large section which is not contained in the corresponding revelation in the Book of Commandments (28) and Revelation Book 1. However, Joseph explained this when he stated about the revelation: “I was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation; the first paragraph of which was written at this time [August 1830], and the remainder in the September following” (Times and Seasons 4:117). Evidently, the remainder of the revelation (written one month later) didn’t make it into Revelation Book 1 or the Book of Commandments. This anomaly, which you so astutely observed, when coupled with Joseph’s explanation, points directly to the accuracy of the Doctrine and Covenants over the Book of Commandments.

      Again, thank you for your comment. I hope this explanation answers your concerns about the relationship between the Revelation Books published in The Joseph Smith Papers, the Book of Commandments, and the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    2. Let's get a few things straight. First of all, John Whitmer's testimony of things revealed from heaven is not material evidence so his claim proves nothing. Secondly, though you have addressed that JS received additional revelation to section 28 a month later, this raises further questions: given the dates of these supposed revelations (Aug & Sept 1830) and the date of the publication of the Book of Commandments (1833), roughly three years apart, why wasn't the complete revelation included in the original printing and, more importantly, why were the additions intermingled instead of appended at the end?

      You mentioned that we don't have many of the originals (likely including the ones that are most damaging) and imply that what we do have are hand-written copies of the originals and that is why you can claim that the D&C is more faithful to the originals, yet you offer no evidence to support this claim (I understand that the evidence you need inconveniently does not exist but the burden of proof is resting on you at this point). On the contrary, I can provide you with 3 hand-written copies of section 89 (RLDS 86) as an example that demonstrates that the scribes were careful with making word-for-word copies (not accounting for spelling or punctuation).

      Compare them for yourself:

      Written on blank pages at the end of a copy of the Book of Commandments:!/paperSummary/book-of-commandments-1833&p=166

      From Revelation Book 1:!/paperSummary/revelation-book-1&p=155

      From Revelation Book 2:!/paperSummary/revelation-book-2&p=59

      Compare with the published D&C:

      If you can provide at least one revelation that had two hand-written copies (assuming you can also prove which one the original is) that shows discrepancies suggesting that the Book of Commandments is more faithful to one copy and the D&C is more faithful to the other, then your argument will deserve reconsideration. But no matter what, the fact remains that many of the revelations were tampered with and it begs the question, why? Were the scribes really that careless? If the revelation manuscripts we have from the Joseph Smith Papers weren't the originals, why did the scribes feel the need to make corrections to the words spoken by God through the mouth of Joseph Smith? Did the scribes feel that the correct grammar, spoken by God, needed to be corrupted? If God is perfect and speaks to everyone in their own tongue, then it should follow that He speaks according to grammatical rules of said languages and the grammar should be correct the first time around—the scribes needn't redact anything.

    3. On the other hand, if the words that came from the mouth of JS weren't really from God, it would make more sense to see changes needing to be made to suit the early church whether it be corrections of grammar or updates to church offices. For example, the church was organized April 6, 1830, and section 20 was received in full shortly thereafter. The Book of Commandments was printed in 1833, and the D&C, printed in 1835, made room for the calling and responsibilities of the high priest, which was not an office in the church until June 3, 1831. Did God forget that important calling the first time the revelation was given between 1829 and 1830 and did He forget to restore that calling on April 6, 1830? Did God later inspire JS to slip in the calling of high priest into section 20 for the publication of the D&C in 1835? Was it in the "original" manuscript and did the scribes just simply removed all references to the high priest in the 1833 Book of Commandments—well after the introduction of the calling in 1831—only to put it back in 1835 for the publication of the D&C?

      If Joseph Smith wasn't a true prophet of God, then all the errors make sense because they are human errors. On the other hand, if he really was the prophet of the restored church, then a lot of things that don't make sense had to happen.

    4. Nathan—

      The Book of Commandments (BC) vs. Doctrine and Covenants (DC) issue simply boils down to this:

      1) BC was never finished (press destroyed by mob) and thus was unpublished and not approved by the church as a correct record of Joseph’s revelations.

      2) Eye witness, Oliver Cowdery, publicly stated there were material differences between BC and original manuscripts. As a result of these differences, BC project was scrapped and DC project started.

      3) All on original BC committee, the higher quorums of church including Joseph, and the general assembly approved 1835 DC as correct. Everyone in the church at this time was satisfied that DC was the correct representation of Joseph's revelations. Their decision was binding upon the church, then as well as now, making the 1835 DC the official and correct record of the original revelations.

    5. It's been awhile but I signed up for email notifications for any activity on this post and thought I'd revisit our conversation from over a year ago.

      1. Roughly 3,000-5,000!copies were published and bound. If the BC was never finished, then it makes no sense why ANY would be bound.

      2. If the church was a fraud all along, then it can be asserted that Oliver Cowdery was in on the con as well so his "witness" proves nothing if he himself doesn't have evidence to back up his own claim concerning any original manuscript.

      3. Originality cannot be decided upon by a vote from a committee, especially if we don't have ANY of the "original" manuscripts to compare BC and D&C with.

      For the sake of my argument, I'm going to refer to the original (missing) revelation manuscripts as X. The alleged order of events as you suggest is as follows:

      1. 1829-1830, X was hand-written but is entirely missing and therefore cannot be verified that it ever existed.

      2. Revelation Books (RB) 1 & 2 are—hand-written again?!—copies of X, but with SEVERAL redactions and we still have them today for our examination.

      3. 1833, BC is published and matches RB 1 & 2, not X.

      4. 1835, D&C is published and matches the missing X volume more than it matches RB 1 & 2.

      Case in point, your entire argument wholly relies on the validity of missing documents.

    6. Hi Nathan—

      It has been awhile. It’s good to hear from you.

      I think it was planned to publish 3,000 to 5,000 Book of Commandments (BC) but by all accounts the press was destroyed mid-publication (only about half of revelation 65 was printed) and the only BCs that ever existed were those created from the printed revelations scattered in the streets. I’m not sure how many were bound but at most it would have been in the very low hundreds if that many. I think there are 30 or so in existence today.

      I don’t believe the “church was a fraud all along” nor was Oliver Cowdery. I believe that one of the reasons the Lord chose Oliver to be one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon was that He knew Oliver was not a liar and would be true to his word. The fact that the original revelation manuscripts are not available today does not mean he lied about comparing the BC revelations with the originals. Just like the fact that the Book of Mormon plates are not available for any of us to look at today doesn’t mean that Oliver lied about seeing them at the hand of the angel. Besides, others testified that the Doctrine and Covenants (DC) had been carefully compared to the originals. I don’t know where these testimonies are in LDS church history, but they are in RLDS History of the Church 1:577-582. Again, I would advise you to read the sources quoted in my blog as again they are well documented as to the errors found in the BC and that the DC was a correct printing of the original revelations.

  18. I have seen the microfiche copies in the RLDS archives of a number of the handwritten revelations. They agree more closely with the Book of Commandments than with the D & C. I was permitted to make photostats of the microfiche of the original handwritten revelation of what is now section 42 in the RLDS D & C and have them in my possession at this time. Your belief that the D & C agrees with the original revelations is fallacious.

    1. BYU graduate--

      Thank you for your comment. You bring up some interesting observations. I'm going to do a little research and will get back to you on this issue.

    2. If you want a side by side comparison of the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants (LDS) so that finding the differences will be easier to investigate, the following link posted on Reddit is a PDF that highlights all of the changes:

    3. BYU graduate—

      I contacted the Community of Christ archivist who said they have none of the original revelations. All they have are 4 pages of the Book of Commandments (BC) manuscript, but they are not on microfilm. They also have 3 printed BCs, with one of them on microfilm. I’m not sure how this reconciles with what you say you have, but what it tells me is that they do not have the original revelations from which the copies were made to print the BC. According to the Revelations and Translations book of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, Revelation Book 1 (RB1) is the oldest existing copy of Joseph Smith Jr.'s revelations and that was the book taken to Independence by the BC publishing committee from which the BC was printed. After the BC was destroyed, the publishing committee took their copy of the revelations (evidently RB1) back to Kirtland. According to Oliver Cowdery in The Evening and the Morning Star published in Kirtland, their (BC publishing committee) copies (RB1) were compared to the originals and found to be in error. As would be expected then, the wording in the revelations of RB1 correlates with the wording of the revelations printed in the BC.

      So if the LDS Church and the Community of Christ (RLDS) don’t have the original revelations, who does? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for that. However, from church history (RLDS 1:578-582) it is well documented that original revelations did exist. It was from them which copies were made to take to Independence to publish in BC and that those revelations significantly differed from the original ones. It was the original ones that were used to produce the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. As indicated in my blog post, please read the pamphlet, Book of Commandments Versus the Doctrine and Covenants, reviewed by President Joseph Smith, III, which is a cursory presentation of the subject and the book, Our Beliefs Defended, by Apostle J. F. Curtis. Both of these have well documented information on this subject and can be obtained from the Restoration Bookstore online store.


Please treat all who post and their opinions with respect.