Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Review: Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations volumes

31%2BH4iB8B7L._SL500_AA300_.jpgH. Michael Marquardt, author of The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary has reviewed two volumes from the Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations series  in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 31, no 2 (Fall/Winter 2011):152-56. Below are excerpts from his review of "Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations" below.  The full review of both volumes including volume 1 is available at the Mormon PDF Web Site.

Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., and Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Volume two of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman, general eds. Salt Lake City: Church Historian's Press, 2011. 726 pp. Hardback: $69.95. ISBN: 978-1-60641-942-7.

Volume 2: Published Revelations contains photographs of the 1833 Book of Commandments, revelations published in the Evening and the Morning Star; their edited printing in the Kirtland, Ohio, Evening and Morning Star; the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants; and seven revelations from the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants which are not in the 1835 first edition. Also included is a selection of marked pages taken from Oliver Cowdery's copy of the Book of Commandments.

The reprinted Evening and Morning Star was the first place where "substantive changes to the revelation texts" appear (xxviii). The text which appeared in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants became a church handbook and it contained, as stated in the preface to that edition, "items of principles for the regulation of the church, as taken from the revelations which have been given since its organization, as well as from former ones."

Although Oliver Cowdery wrote that the Kirtland, Ohio, reprint would correct typographical and other errors, the Evening and Morning Star "actually contained significant changes to the revelation texts" and "very few of the changes in the reprint represent a restoration back to the earliest text" (198-99). A significant part of the book includes a parallel column of the revelations printed in the Independence and Kirtland editions of the Star (202-99). For those interested in making a textual study of the variants in the revelation[s], this book will help.

This volume gives good background information on the publication of the BC and the 1835 D&C. The footnotes are usually informative. The value of the book is the detailed comments on the sources for printing the D&C. For example, BC 28 "given in Harmony, Pennsylvania, September 4, 1830," (compare with LDS D&C 27; RLDS D&C 26), "was greatly expanded when it was printed in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. The material added to the 1835 version included updated and expanded doctrine on priesthood keys that was not known at the time the revelation was originally dictated" (xxxi).

Revelations were modified and expanded beyond the original text so that what really mattered were the new wording, and not necessary giving background as to date and location of the original text. By making the D&C a source book on doctrine, it became harder to recognize the changing role that was made in human development as the text moved from the early wording, to its modified printed text, and, finally, to its firm position in the D&C.

While some Restoration churches have maintained in the past that the revelations have not been changed or altered when first printed, it is refreshing to have scholars address this issue as evidenced from an examination of manuscripts and comparing the words between the printed revelations. Comments, such as the following, help in our understanding of these revelatory documents.

As had been the case with editorial work on the Book of Commandments, the editors of the Doctrine and Covenants made numerous changes to many of the revelations as well as a small number of substantive changes. In contrast with the earlier work, however, the editors of the Doctrine and Covenants also made a focused effort to update the revelations to reflect changes in church government, structure, and doctrine that had occurred since the revelations were first dictated (306).

A pioneering book that seriously took into consideration textual criticism is Richard P. Howard's Restoration Scriptures: A Study of their Textual Development.2 General readers can appreciate Volume 2: Published Revelations because it gives a fuller understanding for the history of these early published works. At the same time for those who love to examine the textual history of Restoration scriptures, volume two is a must to have in their library.

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