Changes in the Doctrine and Covenants – Part 4

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2013
Wilford Woodruff, the 4th LDS Prophet said, “We have the book of Doctrine and Covenants, our testament, which contains the most glorious, godlike, solemn and eternal truths ever recorded within the lids of a book on earth. All these records are the words of God to man; and though the heavens and earth pass away not one jot or tittle will ever fall unfulfilled.” So why have there been so many changes?
 

Changes in the Doctrine & Covenants – Part 4

Wilford Woodruff, the 4th LDS Prophet said, “We have the book of Doctrine and Covenants, our testament, which contains the most glorious, godlike, solemn and eternal truths ever recorded within the lids of a book on earth. All these records are the words of God to man; and though the heavens and earth pass away not one jot or tittle will ever fall unfulfilled (Journal of Discourses, vol. 22, p. 331). Joseph Smith also said of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.), “There is no error in the revelations which I have taught” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 366). The recent LDS manual entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church—Joseph Smith has the same message on page 522.

If there were “no errors in the revelations,” why were so many changed? The January 2013 LDS Ensign magazine has an article on pages 45-49 entitled “Revelations of God” about the changes in Smith’s revelations in the D. & C. On page 45 it says, “The Lord sometimes commanded Joseph to revise, update, or correct the written revelations.” Why did Smith need to “correct” his revelations if there were “no errors” in them? On page 46, the Ensign article says, “Some of the needed changes stemmed from errors made by scribes as Joseph Smith dictated the revelation to them.”

No examples of scribal errors are given, but that is an interesting admission. LDS leaders have often said that the Bible is not completely reliable because it contained scribal errors! So, does that raise any questions about the reliability of the D. & C.? On page 46 the article also says, “Many revelations were later revised by Joseph Smith through inspiration.” If Smith’s revelations came from God in the first place, why would He need to inspire corrections in them just two years later?

Smith’s revelations were first published in the Book of Commandments (B. of C.) in 1833, but many were revised just two years later in 1835 when LDS published the first edition of the D. & C. Part of the Bible was written over 3500 years ago, but there is no evidence to show that God ever had to “update” or “revise”it! LDS leaders have claimed that the Bible is unreliable because careless copyists lost some of it or they added their own ideas to it, but no evidence supports such claims. There are thousands of copies of biblical books in their original languages, yet none have been found with major changes like the revelations in the D. & C. had just two years after it was first published!

Page 46 of the Ensign article also says, “Joseph Smith realized that, according to the will of the Lord, new revelations could come that would clarify and expand upon previous revelations from the Lord.” That implies that the Lord gave revelations that weren’t clear enough and that were incomplete! If that is true, could LDS revelation and scripture in use now need to be clarified and expanded even more in the future?Biblical writers didn’t need to change what they wrote, so why were Smith’s revelations changed? Since the God of the Bible didn’t change His revelations, was Joseph Smith listening to a different god whose revelations needed to be changed or updated?

The Ensign article says on pages 45-46 that Joseph Smith used seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon and he also “received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones.” Then it says that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were debating the meaning of John 21:22 in the Bible after Peter asked Jesus about John’s future. Jesus replied, “If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:23 says that Jesus did not say that John would not die. But Cowdery and Smith agreed to use the “Urim and Thummim or seer stone to settle their difference. “In response (through the seer stone), Joseph received the revelation now known as section 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants which informed them that Jesus had told the Apostle John, ‘Thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory.’” So, LDS believe the Apostle John didn’t die, but is still ministering on the earth. No biblical prophet used a seer stone to receive revelation from God. Nor did biblical prophets ask the Lord about certain subjects so that He would respond with a revelation. Second Peter 1:21 says, “Prophecy came not at any time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

The Ensign article says, “Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument. One of his scribes explained that process: ‘The scribe seats himself at a desk or table, with pen, ink, and paper. The subject of inquiry being understood, the Prophet and Revelator inquires of God. He spiritually sees, hears, and feels, and then speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’”

LDS leaders like Apostle Bruce McConkie have said that the Bible is to be accepted with a qualification (because of translation errors, etc.), but the LDS scriptures (including the D. & C.), “are accepted without qualification” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 764). So, many LDS believe that the D. & C. has never been changed. A lot of information like changes in the D. & C. wasn’t available to the public a few years ago, but now the internet has made it available to anyone interested. The Ensign article seems to be an attempt to provide some answers and calm the fears of LDS who have been unnerved by finding changes in the D. & C.

Interested people can search the internet and find much more information on this subject. Next time we will discuss some more specific changes in the Doctrine & Covenants.

Read Part 5

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