Friday, March 26, 2010

The Dating of Doctrine & Covenants 10 - Part 1

March 25, 2010 (updated April 11, 2010)
by Tim Barker

The original header to Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants, as published in the 1833 Book of Commandments (as Section 9), indicated that the revelation contained therein was received in May 1829.1 In the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the caption was modified to read that the revelation was received in the “summer of 1828.”2 This date has remained consistent through subsequent publications including our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

The reason for the change likely relates to B.H. Roberts’ research as published in the History of the Church. He stated that the May 1829 date is “clearly an error,” based on available circumstantial evidence.3 The Community of Christ (formerly The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) had previously modified the revelation date in their version of the Doctrine and Covenants by 1897. Their publication indicates that the revelation was received in July 1828.4  Their 1952 publication has the timing of the revelation updated as “July or August 1828.”5

Regarding Elder Roberts’ identification of May 1829 as an error; the following information should be considered. Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania on April 5, 1829, and they commenced translation on April 7th.6  By May, they had already been translating for about a month. The revelation indicates that the gift of translation was “now restored unto you,” (D&C 10:3) which would imply that if translation took place during April, it was done while Joseph’s “mind was darkened” (D&C 10:2). Further, Oliver wrote David Whitmer in April and told him that Joseph had the records and that they were in process of translating them.7 If the gift of translation was restored in May, why would Oliver write David in April and say that he had a testimony of the truthfulness of the translation in which they were engaged?8 Based on this information, as well as the actual text of the revelation, Elder Robert's assessment of the date appears reasonable.

By June 14, 1828 Martin Harris had transcribed 116 pages of the Book of Mormon.9  During the course of translation Martin began seeking permission to take the writings home and after three requests he was granted permission. According to Joseph’s history, he had to give up the Urim and Thummim to “the angel” (probably Moroni), due to his excessive importuning of the Lord, in relation to Martin’s requests.10  In his 1832 autobiography, Joseph states, “I was chastened for my transgression for asking the Lord the third time wherefore the plates was taken from me by the power of God and I was not able to obtain them for a season.”11  While Harris went to Palmyra to show his family the manuscript pages, Joseph stayed at home with Emma in expectation of their first child.

The next day, on June 15th, their baby boy was born.  He was named Alvin, after Joseph's brother who had passed away.  Their joy was short-lived, however, as their baby died shortly thereafter and Emma was having difficulty recovering.  However, after approximately three weeks had passed without hearing from Martin, and after Emma had recovered to some degree, Joseph travelled upstate and visited with his family in Manchester while Emma continued to recover in the care of her mother. It was while visiting with his parents that Joseph learned of the loss of the manuscript pages.12

If Martin Harris left for Palmyra on June 14, 1828, Joseph would have left Harmony sometime around July 5th (three weeks later), and probably arrived no earlier than July 8th.13 Lucy Mack Smith indicates that Joseph’s stay was for only a day,14 however, Joseph indicated that he stayed with his parents “for a short season,” before returning to his home in Harmony, Pennsylvania.15 While a “short season” is not defined, it seems to imply a length of time greater than a day. In any event, Joseph probably didn’t stay too long, considering his wife was at home in poor condition. Joseph may have been reluctant to return home too soon, however, since he thought the news of the loss would be too much for Emma to handle in her circumstances.16

“Immediately after my return home," Joseph relates, "I was walking a little distance, when, behold, the former heavenly messenger appeared and handed to me the Urim and Thummim again…”17 After receiving the instruments Joseph received the revelation recorded in D&C 3, regarding the loss of the 116 manuscript pages.18 His history states that after this revelation was received, “both the plates and the Urim and Thummim were taken from me again; but in a few days they were returned to me…” after which Joseph received the revelation recorded in D&C 10.19

Lucy’s account is more detailed regarding the intervening period between the revelations in D&C 3 and D&C 10. After the reception of D&C 3, she records Joseph as saying, “after the angel left me…I continued my supplications to God, without cessation, and on the twenty-second of September, I had the joy and satisfaction of again receiving the Urim and Thummim, with which I have again commenced translating, and Emma writes for me, but the angel said that the Lord would send me a scribe, and I trust his promises will be verified. The angel seemed pleased with me when he gave me back the Urim and Thummim, and he told me that the Lord loved me, for my faithfulness and humility.”20

While Joseph’s account indicates that only a few days expired between the revelations, or at least between the loss of the instruments and their subsequent reception, Lucy’s account seems to imply a longer period of time. If Lucy’s account correctly states the date that Joseph again received the instruments, than the current header to Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants would be more appropriately identified as no earlier than September 22, 1828, rather than the “summer of 1828.”

At this point, let us consider the following scenarios, and additional information supplied by Joseph and Lucy.

According to Lucy:

First: Joseph’s stay in Manchester was for one day.21

This does not seem reasonable considering that Lucy described Joseph as being exhausted when he arrived (the trip was approximately three days each way), and the stress of Martin’s loss of the 116 manuscript pages couldn’t have helped much either. Joseph said that Emma would not be able to handle the awful news in her present condition, which seems to indicate he may have been reluctant to leave so soon. Joseph said his visit was for a “short season,” and if Joseph Sr. and Lucy visited them in Harmony approximately two months following Joseph’s return home, he would not have been able to communicate to them the reception of the instruments on September 22nd since he would not have received them yet. Lucy states that Joseph communicated this information the night that they arrived.22

Second: Joseph gives up the Urim and Thummim to the angel shortly after returning home, for giving the manuscript pages to Martin Harris.23

This seems incorrect considering that Lucy identifies this event as preceding the revelation in D&C 3.  She incorporates language from D&C 3 into the words from the angel at this visit. She says that Joseph had to give up the Urim and Thummim for delivering the “manuscript into the hands of a wicked man.” This language is similar to BC 3:5 or D&C 3:12, wherein the Lord says, “thou deliveredst up that which was sacred into the hands of a wicked man.” She also states that Joseph lost the instruments because he gave the manuscript to Martin, which Joseph’s account agrees with as it indicates that he first loss the instruments after asking the Lord three times for permission to lend the manuscript pages to Martin.24  Joseph also indicates that he received them again after returning home wherein he received D&C 3, but afterwards the plates and the instruments were taken from him again.

Third: Joseph receives the revelation in D&C 3, apparently without the Urim and Thummim.25

Considering Joseph’s reliance on the Urim and Thummim and seer stones for revelations up to this point and for several years afterwards, it is not likely that Joseph received this revelation without the aid of these instruments. Additionally, as previously noted, Joseph specifically indicates that the revelation was through these instruments.

Fourth: There was a period of humility, penitence, and continual supplications to God prior to receiving D&C 10.26

This statement from Lucy appears reasonable. While Joseph indicates that the two revelations were only days apart, this statement could be applicable and seems likely considering the fact that the angel took the instruments from Joseph after receiving D&C 3.

Fifth: On September 22, 1828, Joseph received the Urim and Thummim again.27

This statement appears reasonable considering the specificity with which Lucy assigns the date and the timing appears appropriate considering the circumstances.

There is a possibility that as Lucy retold these events approximately 16 years after they occurred that she confused the date of this revelation with Moroni’s visits during the previous years. While this is certainly a possibility, the question arises as to why she would confuse this particular occasion with the former instances? While she may have remembered some details inaccurately, the degree with which she remembers as many details as she does, is remarkable. If she is correct in assigning this date, it adds an interesting element to this event in church history.

Joseph had to spiritually prepare himself for several years prior to obtaining the plates and instruments on September 22, 1827.  The consequences of his decision to follow the "persuasions of men" (D&C 3:6) by heeding Martin's request resulted in the loss of the instruments and plates.  The promise of the angel that he could again obtain the plates and instruments on September 22, 1828, through humility and penitence, must have reminded Joseph of his previous preparation.  After the loss of these manuscript pages, Joseph realized the significance of the mistake he had made and the Lord instructed him that he would fall if he did not repent (D&C 3:9-10). The earlier words of Moroni must have run through Joseph's mind continually, that he must have "no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise [he] could not get them" (JS-H 1:46).  The Lord told him he should not have "feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words--Yet you should have been faithful..." (D&C 3:7-8).  Through humility and penitence, Joseph was able to again obtain the objects, according to Lucy, on September 22, 1828.

Sixth: Joseph received the revelation in D&C 10 several months after receiving the Urim and Thummim.28

Joseph’s account indicates that when the plates and instruments were returned he inquired of the Lord and then received D&C 10. Joseph also said that he had again commenced translating with Emma writing for him, under a promise from the angel that a scribe would be sent. The revelation itself, states that the Urim and Thummim is “now restored unto you” (vs. 3), indicating that the timing of the revelation corresponded with the reception of the instruments, and the Lord told Joseph to continue translation. It appears logical that Joseph would continue translation with Emma acting as scribe based on this directive from the Lord.  Lucy Mack Smith indicates that Emma had already begun writing as scribe when they arrived in the fall of 1828.

According to Joseph:

First: Joseph stayed with his parents for a short season.29

While the “short season” is not really definable, it does make sense that Joseph wouldn’t spend a mere day with his parents when it is altogether a six-day round trip. As noted above, Joseph was worried the news would be too much for Emma and may have caused Joseph some reluctance to return home so quickly. As Lucy indicates that she and Joseph Sr. arrived in Harmony approximately two months following Joseph’s departure, and they arrived after Joseph had received the instruments on September 22nd, it appears reasonable that this “short season” may have been from early-mid July through some time in August. If such is the case, Joseph may have received D&C 3 in July or August, or it may be that Lucy's "two months" was actually closer to three months. See below for further information.

Second: Immediately after returning home, Joseph receives the instruments, and subsequently received the revelation recorded in D&C 3.30

This statement appears reasonable. Lucy’s account agrees to a great extent with Joseph’s. She states that it was soon after his arrival home, and after mighty prayer an angel appeared to him.

Third: Joseph lost the plates and the Urim and Thummim in between the two revelations.31

This account is reasonably consistent with Lucy’s account.

Fourth: A few days following the revelation in D&C 3 and the loss of the instruments, Joseph received them again and received D&C 10.32

In both cases, Joseph’s wording alludes to the idea that the revelations were received almost immediately after receiving the instruments, and that they were taken from him almost immediately following D&C 3. The circumstances seem to corroborate the position that there was a longer period of time between the loss and reception of the instruments between the two revelations. One question that arises based on Joseph’s account is why did the angel take the plates and instruments from him after D&C 3, only to restore them to him a few days later? It seems probable, in accordance with Lucy’s account, that after Joseph returned home and humbled himself through prayer, the angel appeared to him with the instruments so that Joseph could obtain revelation on the matter. However, as noted above, the angel may have taken the objects from Joseph afterwards so that he could again prepare himself spiritually for the work in which he was to be engaged.

If Joseph received D&C 3 in late July or early August 1828, this would give him a little over a month and a half to two months to spiritually prepare himself, as Lucy indicates, for the reception of these objects on September 22nd.

Based on the foregoing analysis, I hypothesize the following reconstruction of events:

On June 14, 1828, Martin Harris left Joseph and Emma for Palmyra, New York. The following day Joseph and Emma lost their first child after birth. After three weeks of recovery, and no word from Martin, Emma encourages Joseph to travel upstate New York to investigate the matter, and probably to inform Joseph’s family of their loss. Joseph arrives on approximately July 8th and learns of Martin’s transgression and the loss of the 116 manuscript pages the same day. Joseph remains with his parents for a relatively short period of time.

Near the end of July, Joseph arrives home and almost immediately thereafter, through humility and mighty prayer, receives the plates and the Urim and Thummim from the angel. He then receives the revelation in D&C 3. Following this revelation the angel takes the objects from him, and he is given a promise that if he is humble and penitent, he will receive them again on September 22nd.33 During this time, Joseph prays to God “without cessation” and on September 22nd, he again receives the instruments. Joseph then receives the revelation contained in D&C 10, and at the Lord’s instruction, proceeds to translate with Emma acting as scribe. The angel who provided these instruments promised that the Lord would send him a scribe.34 Lucy and Joseph Sr. arrive shortly thereafter and stay for a period of time.

If the above reconstruction is correct, it may be that the header to D&C Section 10 would be more appropriately identified as September 22, 1828. B.H. Roberts also speculated that D&C 10 was received in August or September 1828.35

The two elements missing from this consideration is the reasoning behind the original dating of this revelation, and the comment from Lucy indicating that Joseph received this revelation several months following his reception of the Urim and Thummim on September 22, 1828.36  For further consideration of these points, see The Dating of Doctrine & Covenants 10 - Part 2.

1 BC 9 (Book of Commandments reprinted verbatim in 1884 by the Salt Lake Tribune, pg 13). Subsequent to the publication of the BoC in 1833, the D&C was published in 1835, and this revelation was recorded therein as Section 36 (, accessed on March 23, 2010). The revelation remained as such at least through 1854, but by 1879 the revelation was reassigned as Section 10 and has remained unchanged since then.
2 D&C 10 (1921 Version), pg 14
3 HC 1:23.  Per e-mail correspondence received from Robin Jensen (co-editor of JSP-Revelations Vol.1 ), the change in the header to D&C 10 "was likely done because of the correction of the date in the manuscript history compiled sometime in 1839.  The editors made a correction to the narrative in the Manuscript history of the church, by literally attaching a sheet of paper containing the text of D&C 10 into the narrative right after D&C 3 or in the summer of 1828." (March 30, 2010)  B.H. Roberts compilation of the History of the Church was based on the Manuscript History (HC 1:vii).  See also, CDC 1:69.
4 D&C (RLDS version dated 1897), pg 7. The change may have been sooner, however, this is the earliest edition of the RLDS D&C that I could view.  The RLDS publication of Church History 1:25, does not address the issue of timing; however, the history is reliant upon Joseph's account.
5 As documented at (accessed on March 23, 2010).
6 HC 1:32
7 DN June 22, 1881, pg 334
8 Ibid, 334
9 HC 1:20-21
10 Ibid, 1:21
11 PWJS, 14
12 BSJS, 118-121.  The birth date and name are documented in Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, pg 314, fn 2.12. "Most accounts refer to this child as Alva. Emma's Bible in the Buddy Youngreen private collection records the name in her own hand as Alvin. The birth date is sometimes disputed also. The Bible lists it as 16 June but is not in Emma's hand and was written later. The gravestone and the Preface section of the Latter-day Saints Manuscript History (Book A-1) in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery date it 15 June."
13 David Whitmer indicated that it was about 2½ to 3 days travel from Fayette to Harmony (see DN April 9, 1884, pg 190). Considering that it is another 24+ miles to Manchester, 3 days seems appropriate as a conservative measure.
14 BSJS, 117-122
15 HC 1:21
16 BSJS, 121
17 HC 1:21
18 Lucy Mack Smith alludes to this revelation being received without the Urim and Thummim (BSJS, 125); however, Joseph’s account specifically indicates that it was received through the Urim and Thummim (HC 1:21-22). The 1833 Book of Commandments includes this revelation as Section 2, and dates the revelation as July 1828; this date is consistent with our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
19 HC 1:23
20 BSJS, 126
21 Ibid, 117-122
22 Ibid, 124
23 Ibid, 125
24 PWJS, 14
25 BSJS, 125
26 BSJS, 125-126
27 Ibid, 126
28 Ibid, 126
29 HC 1:21
30 Ibid, 1:21
31 Ibid, 1:21
32 Ibid, 1:21
33 BSJS, 125
34 Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony on April 5, 1829 (see HC 1:32; M&A 1:14; BSJS 131).
35 HC 1:23
36 BSJS, 126

1 comment:

  1. I am aware that Max Parkin addressed the timing of this revelation as well during the 7th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (1979), but I have been unable to obtain a copy of his article to "compare notes" so to speak. If anybody can help me out, please let me know!