When the LDS Doctrine & Covenants was first published in 1835, some noticed that several of Joseph Smith's revelations had been significantly altered from their earlier manuscript counterparts. What follows is an exacting comparison between the manuscript and published versions of one of Joseph's earliest recorded revelations, received at Harmony, Pennsylvania in March 1829. The revelation was provoked by Martin Harris' desire to confirm Joseph's possession of an ancient record inscribed on gold plates.
I have imposed several editorial earmarks on the text for the reader's convenience. [Bracketed Numbers] are inserted in reference to the modern LDS versification of this revelation (D&C 5:1-20). [Bracketed Letters/Words] are inserted for clarification where helpful.
Struckthrough Words are significant portions of
text from the manuscripts that were omitted for publication. Boldface
Words are new additions to the text not corroborated by any of the
early manuscripts; sometimes these fragments replace previous terms or phrases
and other times are interpolated seamlessly into the original. Italicised
Words reflect a change in tense, perspective, or quantity.
Capitalization and punctuation are also accurately represented.
“March 1829 Revelation to Joseph Smith, Jr. and Martin Harris," from the Newell K. Whitney Collection (D&C 5):
“ Behold I say unto you that my servant hath desired A witness that my servant Joseph hath got the things which he hath testified that he hath got
“ and now Behold this shall ye say unto him I the Lord am God I have given these things unto him & I have commanded him that he should stand as a witness of these things
“ nevertheless I have caused him that he should enter into a covenant with me that he should not show them except I command him & he hath no power over them e[x]cept I grant it unto him
“ & he hath A gift to translate the Book & I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift for I will grant unto him no other gift
“ and verily I say unto you that woe shall come unto the Inhabitents of the Earth if they will not hearken unto my words
“ for Behold if they will not believe my words they would not believe my servants if it were possible he could show them all things
“ O ye unbelieving ye stiffnecked Generation
“ Behold I have reserved the things which have been spoken of which I have entrusted to my servant for a wise purpose in me & it shall be made known unto future Generations
“ but for this Generation they shall have my word
“ yea & the testimony of three of my servants shall go forth with my word unto this Generation
“ yea three shall know of a surety that those things are true
“ for I will give them power that they may Behold & view those things as they are
“ & to none else will I grant this power among this Generation
“ & the testimony of three Witnesses will I send forth & my word
“ & behold whosoever believeth in my word him will I visit with the manifestations of my spirit & they shall be Born of me
“ & their testimony Shall also go forth & thus if the People of this Generation harden not their hearts I will work a reformation among them & I will put down all lieings & deceivings & Priestcraft & envyings & strifes & Idolatries and sorceries & all manner of Iniquities & I will establish my Church yea even the church which was taught by my Desiples [Disciples] & now if this Generation do harden their hearts against my words Behold I deliver them up unto Satan for he reigneth & hath much Power at this time for he hat got great hold upon the hearts of the People of this Generation & how far from the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah do they come at this time & Behold the Sword of justice doth hang above their heads & if they persist in the hardness of the[i]r hearts the time cometh that it must fall upon them
“Behold I tell you these things even as I also told the People of the destruction of Jerusalem & my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verrified."
1835 LDS Doctrine & Covenants, section 32 (D&C 5):
“Behold I say unto you, that as my servant Martin Harris has desired a witness at my hand, that you, my servant Joseph Smith, jr., have got the
of which you have testified and
borne record that you have received of me:
“and now behold, this shall you say unto him, He who spake unto you said unto you, I the Lord am God, and have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, jr. and
commanded you that you shall stand as a
witness of these things,
nevertheless and I have
caused you that you should enter into a
covenant with me that you should not show them except to
those persons to whom I commanded you; and you have no
power over them except I grant it unto you.
“ And you have a gift to translate the
Book plates; and this is the
first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have
commanded him 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.
and Verily I say unto you, that wo shall
come unto the inhabitants of the Earth if they will not hearken unto my words”
“ for hereafter you shall be ordained and go forth and deliver my words unto the children of men. Behold if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you could show them all these things which I have committed unto you.
“ O this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation, mine anger is kindled against them.
“ Behold verily, I say unto you, I have reserved those things
which have been spoken of which
I have entrusted unto you, my servant Joseph,
for a wise purpose in me, and it shall be made known unto
for this generation they shall
have my word through you;
yea And in addition to your
testimony the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall
call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things: and they shall
go forth with my words that are given through you, unto
three they shall know of
a surety that these things are true:
“ for from heaven will I declare it unto them: I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are;
“ And to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony, among this generation, in this, the beginning of the rising up, and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness – clear as the moon and fair as the sun and terrible as an army with banners.
“ And the testimony of three witnesses will I send forth of my word.
“ And behold, whosoever believeth in my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the Spirit.
“ And you must wait yet a little while; for ye are not yet ordained –
“ And their testimony shall also go forth
& thus if the People unto the condemnation of
this generation if they harden not their
hearts against them: I will work a reformation among them
& I will put down all lieings & deceivings & Priestcraft &
envyings & strifes & Idolatries and sorceries & all manner of
Iniquities & I will establish my Church yea even the church which was
taught by my Desiples & now if this Generation do harden their hearts
against my words Behold I deliver them up unto Satan for he reigneth & hath
much Power at this time for he hat got great hold upon the hearts of the People
of this Generation & how far from the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah do
they come at this time & Behold the Sword of justice doth hang above their
heads & if they persist in the hardness of the[i]r hearts the time cometh
that it must fall upon them
“ for a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out, from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away, and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.
“ Behold I tell you these things even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem, and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified."
Many other revelations received similar treatment in the first publication of the Doctrine & Covenants. What meaning should these alterations communicate to the Latter-day Saints? From the perspective of one having grown up in the church – mission, temple endowment, sealing and all – learning these facts seems to demand a dramatic shift in the orthodox Mormon conception of revelation, prophecy, and scripture.
Should the modern D&C rely on the earliest available manuscript versions (like the Bible) or on the 1835 edition as it does currently? Should Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to insert redactions and revisions into their own revelations in like manner? Should the scriptures instead be recognized as subjective, faithful musings, only reflective of their contemporary culture? Finally, if it is the case that God's Word is only truly revelatory in hindsight, of what utility is it for us here in the present?
– Marquardt, ed., The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text & Commentary, pp. 26-29
– Bench, ed., The Parallel Doctrine and Covenants: The 1832-1833, 1833, and 1835 Editions of Joseph Smith's Revelations, pp. 5-7