Changes in the Doctrine and Covenants – Part 10

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2013
Doctrine and Covenants Section 20 was originally chapter 24 in the Book of Commandments. The heading in the original simply says, “The Articles and Covenants of the church of Christ, given in Fayette, New York, June 1830.” But in the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants it says, “Revelation on Church Organization and government, given through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, April 1830.

Changes in the Doctrine & Covenants – Part 10

Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.) Section 20 was originally chapter 24 in the Book of Commandments (B. of C.). The heading in the original simply says, “The Articles and Covenants of the church of Christ, given in Fayette, New York, June 1830.” But in the 1981 edition of the D. & C. it says, “Revelation on Church Organization and government, given through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, April 1830. HC 1:64-70. Preceding his record of this revelation the Prophet wrote: ‘We obtained of him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize his Church once more here upon the earth.’”

The dates when this revelation was supposedly given are different. The B. of C. says it was given in June 1830 and the D. & C. says it was in April 1830. If it was given in June 1830, it was too late to reveal the date that the LDS Church should be organized, since it was organized on April 6, 1830. That is probably the reason the D. & C. changed the date to April in their 1981 D. & C. But LDS interested in comparing the original B. of C. with the current D. & C. saw that difference in dates and asked questions about it.

Questions like that led to the changes made in the headings of many of the revelations in the D. & C. in the 2013 edition of the D. & C. In the 2013 edition of D. & C. 20 the first sentence of the heading is the same as the 1981 edition up to the period, which was dropped, and the sentence goes on to say, “at or near Fayette, New York. Portions of this revelation may have been given as early summer 1829. The complete revelation, known at the time as the Articles and Covenants, was likely recorded soon after April 6, 1830 (the day the Church was organized.)” The remainder of the heading is the same as the 1981 edition.

The LDS Church has boasted that its history is the most accurate history ever recorded. But, when words like “may” and “likely” are used about the date of this revelation on the organization of the LDS Church, it raises questions about whether or not LDS leaders actually know when it was given.

D. & C. 20:1 shows that the LDS Church was already organized when this “revelation” was given because it says, “The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April.” The original name of the LDS Church was the “Church of Christ” and it didn’t become the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” until 1838 according to D. & C. 115:3-4. The content of this “revelation” suggests that the B. of C. date of June 1830 may be more accurate than the headings in more recent editions of D. & C. 20.

We will now quote D. & C 20 with its verse numbers and show some of the changes between it and the original B. of C. chapter 24. Words that are not in B. of C. but are added to the D. & C. are highlighted,and words deleted from the B. of C. are in bold type with a line drawn through them. In D. & C. 20:2 Smith’s and Cowdery’s surnames are added to their first names and Joseph Smith is identified as the “first elder” of the Church and Cowdery is called the “second elder.” In that text of the B. of C. they are both just called “elders.”

Beginning in D. & C. 20:5 it says, “For after that it was truly manifested unto this first elder, that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world; (6) But after repenting and humbling himself sincerely through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness; (7) And gave unto him commandments which inspired him. (8) And gave unto him power from on high by the means which were before prepared to translate a the Book. of Mormon (9) Which book contained contains a record of a fallen people, and also the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and also to the Jews also; (10) Which book was given by inspiration, and is called the Book of Mormon, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them—(11) Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation as well as in generations of old; (12) Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen. (13) Therefore, wherefore having so great witnesses, by them shall the world be judged, even as many as shall hereafter receive come to a knowledge of this work either to faith and righteousness, or to the hardness of heart in unbelief, (14) And those who receive it in faith, and work righteousness shall receive a crown of eternal life; (15) But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation—(16) For the Lord God hath spoken it; for and we, the elders of the church have heard and bear witness to the words of the glorious Majesty on high, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Joseph Smith had a questionable reputation where he grew up, so he knew that people there would question his qualifications as a religious leader. In D. & C. 20:5-6 he admits his faults, yet declares that God forgave him and sent an angel to give him commandments and prepare him to translate the Book of Mormon. Smith probably felt that statement ought to resolve the questions that some people had about him.

The above marked copy of D. & C. 20:5-16 shows that this “revelation” had a lot of changes made in it. If God revealed it as it was originally in B. of C. chapter 24, did He change His mind when D. & C. 20 was published? Or, did Joseph Smith decide he could improve on what God revealed? Either option is a problem for LDS who take great pride in having a Prophet who provides “current revelation.” The Bible is hundreds of years older than the Book of Mormon, yet thousands of manuscripts in the original languages show that there weren’t any changes like those in the D. & C.!

Those interested in knowing more about changes in the D. & C. can find lots of information online. Next time we will look at other changes in D. & C. 20.

Read Part 11

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