Changes in the Doctrine and Covenants – Part 6

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2013
Mormons say they believe God is omniscient, meaning God “knows all things,” as the Bible also teaches in 1 John 3:20. But if God knows all things, why did Joseph Smith revise many of the “revelations from God”?

Changes in the Doctrine & Covenants – Part 6

Mormons say they believe God is omniscient, meaning God “knows all things,” as the Bible also teaches in 1 John 3:20. But if God knows all things, why did Joseph Smith revise many of the “revelations from God” that were in the 1833 Book of Commandments (B. of C.) when they were published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.) two years later? Did God make a mistake when they were first revealed? LDS accepted the revelations in the B. of C. as true scripture in 1833, but some weren’t true for them in 1835 because they were changed! Why did “revelations from God” like Smith put in the D. & C. cease when he died? Was Smith the only one qualified to receive and revise LDS scripture? LDS say their current President is a Prophet like Smith, but he hasn’t recorded any new “revelations” or revised any LDS scripture. There is no evidence that biblical writers revised or corrected what they wrote.

D. & C. Section 8 is one of the “revelations” Smith “received” and then changed from the way it was in Chapter VII in the B. of C. It was “revealed” to Smith, but was addressed to Oliver Cowdery, Smith’s secretary while Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon. Cowdery wanted to be able to translate the engravings on the “gold plates” of the Book of Mormon like Smith did and in this “revelation” the Lord told him how he could do it. In D. & C. 8:1, the Lord told Oliver he will receive whatever he asks for if he asks in faith with an honest heart, believing he will receive it. In verses 2-5 “the Lord” told Cowdery, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost…which shall dwell in your heart…this is the spirit of revelation…this is your gift.” From verse 6 to the end of the revelation, the changes can be understood better if we show them as we did in previous articles. We will quote the D. & C. with its verse numbers and the words deleted from the 1833 B. of C. will be in bold type with a line through them while the words added in the 1835 D. & C. will be highlighted. 6. “Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod:Aaron; it has told you many things; 7. Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this rod of nature to work in your hands,gift of Aaron to be with you. 8. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it out of your hands, for it is the work of God. 9. And therefore, whatsoever you ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant you, that you shall know. and you shall have knowledge concerning it. 10. Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not. 11. Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, whichthat are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you. 12. Behold, it is I that have spoken it; and I am the same which that spake unto you from the beginning. Amen.”

The major changes are in verses 6-8 where “the gift of working with the rod” is changed to “the gift of Aaron.” William Cowdery, Oliver’s father, and many others, were using “divining rods” when they lived in Vermont. Oliver was still using one when he became Smith’s scribe. Divining rods were used to find water and various treasurers. The 1833 version of this revelation referred to Oliver’s “divining rod.” But by 1835 Smith must have understood that “divining rods” were related to magic and witchcraft, so he revised his revelation to read “the gift of Aaron.” Aaron’s rod in the Bible was never used to translate or to find water or anything else, so Oliver’s divining rod had no similarity to it. Did the omniscient Lord God of the Bible reveal the 1833 version of this message to Smith when Deuteronomy 18:9-12 in the Bible says God condemned those involved witchcraft and anything related to it? Surely God knew the difference between Aaron’s rod and Oliver’s rod! Why didn’t the Lord clearly reveal His message so that it didn’t need to be changed two years later? Or, did this revelation really come from Smith instead of God?

As this article was being written, the LDS Church announced it had just released updated English versions of all their scriptures, including the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The new editions are currently only available online, but the new printed version will be available by August 2013. This is the first updated version of LDS scripture since 1979. The news release said scholars have been working on this updated version for eight years! Joseph Smith “translated” the whole Bible in about two years and he “translated” the Book of Mormon in even less time! Obviously, the LDS scholars who updated the new editions of LDS scripture weren’t as inspired as Smith was! We have looked at the new online version and believe most of the changes are explanatory changes in the chapter headings. Some spelling and punctuation corrections were made, but we saw no major textual changes. So, Smith’s changes in the 1835 D. & C. must have corrected all of the textual errors that were in the 1833 B. of C.!

Those who want more information on any of these subjects can Google “changes in the B. of C.” and find lots of it online. Next time we will look at some other changes in the B. of C.

Read Part 7

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