The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe stated:
The Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of the revelations received by Joseph Smith to individuals and for the guidance of the Church....
The book itself is a witness for the truth of the Prophet's claims. The explanations of old doctrines and presentation of new ones are convincing evidences of their divine origin. Enemies of the Church have rather carefully avoided the discussion of this book. They have been afraid of it. (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, 1951, pp. 251 and 254)
A Serious Charge
Contrary to the Apostle Widtsoe's statement, anti-Mormon writers have not been afraid to discuss the Doctrine and Covenants. In fact, they have made some rather serious charges concerning it. The most serious charge, we feel, is that the revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants have been changed. In a book printed in 1843 Henry Caswall made this statement concerning the Doctrine and Covenants:
Two editions of this work were published, the first in 1833, and the second in 1835. Great inconsistances [sic] exist between several parts of the book and the editions of 1833 and 1835 are in several respects repugnant to each other. (The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century, pp. 79-80 as quoted in "A Study of the Nature of and Significance of the Changes in the Revelations as Found in a Comparison of the Book of Commandments and Subsequent Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955, typed copy, page 126)
Some of the Mormon writers have admitted that changes were made. For instance, the Mormon historian B. H. Roberts admitted that paragraphs were added to the revelations:
...some of the early revelations first published in the "Book of Commandments," in 1833, were revised by the Prophet himself in the way of correcting errors made by the scribes and publishers; and some additional clauses were inserted...and paragraphs added, to make the principles or instructions apply to officers not in the Church at the time some of the earlier revelations were given. (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 173)
In a thesis written at BYU, the Mormon writer John William Fitzgerald made this statement:
1. Differences in wording and differences in wording that change the meaning have occurred in certain sections that appeared first in A Book of Commandments published in 1833 and that appeared later in The Doctrine and Covenants published in 1835. ("A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University. 1940, p. 329)
On page 333 of the same thesis we find this statement:
2. Changes in wording and in meaning occur not only in the verses of corresponding chapters and sections but also in the introductions to the chapters and sections themselves.
In another thesis written at the Brigham Young University, Melvin J. Petersen stated:
Many words were added to the revelations in order to more clearly state what Joseph Smith intended to write... Many times phrases were added to increase the ability of the reader to get the meaning of the verse. ("A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations as Found in a Comparison of the Book of Commandments and Subsequent Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955, typed copy, page 147)
On pages 162–163 of the same thesis, Melvin J. Petersen wrote:
...Joseph Smith's language, as found in the revelations credited to him, needed correcting. There were many grammatical errors in the revelations he first published... Joseph Smith in revising the first published commandments, found many of them needing clarification; therefore he enlarged upon them in order that the original meaning might be more easily discerned... Certain omissions were made when unnecessary material was deleted from the revelations; also incidents that were past and of no significance except to a few.
On page 140 of the same thesis, Melvin J. Petersen stated:
Having discussed the problem of additions to the commandments as being necessary and practical with a growing organization, we find another problem arising concerning words that were omitted... In the 1835 edition, Section thirty-two, verse three was added in the place of verses five and six, Why such a change? Joseph Smith, while reviewing the revelations, was dissatisfied with the wording of verses five and six in portraying the concept he had received, and therefore he omitted verses five and six of Chapter four and rewrote in their place verse three of the 1835 edition which is identical with Section five, verse nineteen of the present 1921 edition.
In chapter forty-four of the Book of Commandments (Section forty-two, 1921 edition) the last three verses were left off.
Strange as it may seem, Dr. Hugh Nibley, who at one time wrote that Mormon teachings are "free of revisions," has now written a letter in which he admits that Joseph Smith's revelations have been changed. In this letter he stated:
1. Revelations have been revised whenever necessary. That is the nice thing about revelation—it is strictly open-ended. (Letter from Dr. Hugh Nibley to Morris L, Reynolds, dated May 12, 1966)
While there have been a few Mormons who have been willing to admit that Joseph Smith's revelations have been changed, many have not been that honest. For instance, the Mormon Apostle Parley P. Pratt definitely stated that no changes were made in the revelations. His statement is recorded in a footnote on page 173 of Vol. 1 of the History of the Church:
Elder Parley P. Pratt,... takes occasion to relate how this and other revelations were given through the Prophet. "Each sentence," says he, "was uttered slowly and very distinctly, and with a pause between each, sufficiently long for it to be recorded by an ordinary writer in long hand. This was the manner in which all his written revelations were dictated and written. There was never any hesitation, reviewing, or reading back, in order to keep the run of the subject; neither did any of these communications undergo revisions, interlinings or corrections. As he dictated them so they stood, so far as I have witnessed;..."
The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe stated:
Within a few years after its organization, the Church had received practically all necessary supplementary laws and regulations. These also have remained unchanged. There has been no tampering with God's word.... the whole body of Church laws forms a harmonious unit, which does not anywhere contradict itself nor has it been found necessary to alter any part of it. (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, pages 119 and 122)
The Mormon writer John J. Stewart stated:
Several of his associates, sitting in his presence when some of the revelations were received, reported that Joseph would dictate them to a clerk at as fast and steady a pace as the clerk was able to write, maintaining an even flow of delivery, and never altering the words spoken. (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Salt Lake City, 1966, page 57)
The Mormon Historian Joseph Fielding Smith made this comment concerning Joseph Smith's revelations:
Inspiration is discovered in the fact that each part, as it was revealed, dovetailed perfectly with what had come before. There was no need for eliminating, changing, or adjusting any part to make it fit; but each new revelation on doctrine and priesthood fitted in its place perfectly to complete the whole structure, as it had been prepared by the Master Builder. (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol, 1, page 170)
The Mormon Apostle LeGrand Richards was asked if changes were made in the revelations; in his reply, dated May 12, 1966, he stated:
Now answering your questions. Your first question: "Have the early revelations of the church been revised and have some additional clauses been inserted as some people claim?" Answer: I am past eighty years of age. I have filled four missions, been bishop of three wards, president of a stake, for fourteen years the Presiding Bishop of the Church, and now for fourteen years a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, and I know of no changes that have been made during that time. I have just discussed this matter with President Joseph Fielding Smith, the Church Historian, and he indicates that in the Book of Mormon, there have been a few grammatical changes; no changes have been made that in any way change the meaning of any sentence; an "are" might be changed to a "were" to make it more grammatically correct....
There may have been a few words changed in the Doctrine & Covenants and President Smith thought there had been one section left out which was instruction rather than revelation....
If you have ever published a book, you will know that after it comes off the press there are always a few typographical errors or mistakes, or a sentence left out here or there. Having written and published three books, I can testify that that is true and such errors have to be corrected... I know that the Church is true, and that the original doctrines as they were revealed from heaven have not been changed, ... (Letter from the Mormon Apostle LeGrand Richards to Morris L. Reynolds, dated May 11, 1966)
Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, was also asked if the revelations had been changed. In his reply, he stated that none of the revelations have been changed. Below is a photograph of his letter.
Book of Commandments
In properly understand the changes that have been made in the Revelations we must understand the history of the Doctrine and Covenants.
In 1833 the Mormon Church published the revelations that had been given to the Church by Joseph Smith in a book entitled "The Book of Commandments." William E. Berrett, Vice Administrator of the Brigham Young University, made this statement:
In the latter part of 1831, it was decided by a council of Church leaders to compile the revelations concerning the origin of the Church and its organization. The collection was to be called the "Book of Commandments." Such a collection was made and presented to a conference of the Priesthood at Hiram, Ohio, November 1, 1831. On the first day of the conference Joseph Smith received a revelation which was made the preface for the new volume and is now Section 1 of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. In this preface we read: "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful,..."
After accepting the collection as scripture it was voted to print 10,000 copies. Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were chosen to carry the manuscript to Independence, Missouri, for printing. (The Restored Church, 1956, pp. 138-139)
The church was unable to print as many copies of the Book of Commandments as they had planned because the printing press was destroyed by a mob. In 1835 the revelations were printed again, and the name of the book was changed to the Doctrine and Covenants. New revelations were added to this book, and many of the previous revelations were revised. Joseph Fielding Smith stated:
This destruction of the Book of Commandments occurred in July 1833, but the publication of the revelations was retarded only until 1835, when the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in Independence and others that had been subsequently received... (The Improvement Era, June 1960, page 384)
The exact number of Book of Commandments that were printed, before the mob destroyed the printing press, is not known; however, David Whitmer (one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon) stated:
Early in the spring of 1833, at Independence, Mo., the revelations were printed in the Book of Commandments. Many of the books were finished and distributed among the members of the church... (An Address to all Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo., 1887, page 55)
In February 1834 Wilford Woodruff (who became the fourth president of the LDS Church) wrote:
...I saw the Book of Commandments or revelations given through Joseph Smith, and I believed them with all my heart and rejoiced therein; and after spending several days, and holding several meetings, we returned home rejoicing. ("Journal History," February 1834, as quoted in "A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations as Found in a Comparison of the Book of Commandments and Subsequent Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants," Master's thesis, B.Y.U., 1955, by Melvin J. Petersen, page 142)
David Whitmer said the following concerning the printing of the Book of Commandments:
The revelations were printed in the Book of Commandments correctly. This I know, and will prove it to you.
These revelations were arranged for publication by Brothers Joseph Smith, Sydney Rigdon, Orson Hyde and others, in Hiram, Ohio, while I was there, were sent to Independence to be published, and were printed just exactly as they were arranged by Brother Joseph and the others. And when the Book of Commandments was printed, Joseph and the church received it as being printed correctly. (An Address to all Believers in Christ, by David Whitmer, page 56)
David Whitmer's statement that the church received the Book of Commandments as being printed correctly, is proven true by the fact that the First Presidency of the church (Joseph Smith, Sydney Rigdon, and Fredrick G. Williams) checked at least some of the revelations after they were printed in the Book of Commandments and noted only four typographical errors. In a letter to W. W. Phelps and others they stated:
We have found the following errors in the Commandments, as printed: fortieth chapter, tenth verse, third line, instead of "corruptable," put corrupted. Fourteenth verse of the same chapter, fifth line, instead of "respector to persons," put respecter of persons. Twenty-first verse, second line of the same chapter, instead of "respecter to," put respecter of. Forty-fourth chapter, twelfth verse, last line, instead of "bands," put heads. (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 364)
From this it is obvious that the Book of Commandments was printed correctly, except for a few typographical errors. That the church approved of the Book of Commandments, and used it from the year 1833 until 1835, can also be seen from a letter written by the leaders of the church in Missouri, in July, 1834. In this letter it was stated:
It will be seen by reference to the Book of Commandments, page 135, that the Lord has said to the Church—and we mean to live by His words: "Let no man break the laws of the land,..." (History of the Church, Vol. 2, page 129)
In the same letter it was stated:
...we entreat the philanthropist, the moralist, and the honorable men of all creeds and sects, to read our publications, to examine the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and THE COMMANDMENTS,... (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol 2, page 133)
David Whitmer said the following concerning the Book of Commandments:
I say it was printed complete (and copyrighted). It was printed complete and many copies distributed among the members of the church, before the printing press owned by the church was destroyed. Brother Joseph and the brethren received it at first as being printed correctly, but they soon decided to print the Doctrine and Covenants. (An Address to All Believers in the Book of Mormon, by David Whitmer, page 5.)
The Doctrine and Covenants was printed in the year 1835. Since the same revelations that were published in the Book of Commandments were put into the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, one would expect them to read exactly the same as when they were first published. However, this is not the case. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, made this statement:
Some of the revelations as they now appear in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants have been changed and added to changed and added to. Some of the changes being the greatest importance as the meaning is entirely changed on some very important matters; as if the Lord had changed his mind a few years after he gave the revelations, and after having commanded his servants (as they claim) to print them in the "Book of Commandments;" and after giving his servants a revelation, being a preface unto His Book of Commandments, which says: "Behold this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the Book of my Commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, oh inhabitants of the earth." Also in this preface, "Behold I am God, and have spoken it; These commandments are of me." "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful." The revelations were printed in the Book of Commandments correctly! This I know, and I will prove it to you.
These revelations were arranged for publication by Bro. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde and others, in Hiram, Ohio, while I was there; and were sent to Independence to be published, and were printed just exactly as they were arranged by Bro. Joseph and the others. And when the Book of Commandments was printed, Joseph and the church received it as being printed correctly. This I know. But in the winter of 1834 they saw that some of the revelations in the Book of Commandments had to be changed, because the heads of the church had gone too far, and had done things in which they had already gone ahead of some of the former revelations. So the book of "Doctrine and Covenants" was printed in 1835, and some of the revelations changed and added to. (Letter written by David Whitmer, published in the Saints Herald, February 5, 1887)
Not For Reproduction
The Mormon Church has suppressed the truth concerning the Book of Commandments and the changes in the revelations. The Brigham Young University allowed us to make photocopies of the first 41 pages of Wilford Woodruff's copy of the Book of Commandments, which they had on microfilm. When the Church Historian's Office found that we had obtained these photocopies, they immediately sent word to the Brigham Young University Library to keep us from obtaining any more photocopies of these rare documents. Consequently, when we wrote to the Brigham Young University Library, asking for the remaining pages of the Book of Commandments, we received a letter in which the following statement appeared:
We are unable to send you a photocopy of the Book of Commandments. We were supplied this copy by the Church Historian's office for the use of our patrons but not for photoduplication or other forms of publication... you will need to secure the permission of the Church Historian's library to have it reproduced, as they own the manuscript copy. (Letter dated April 11, 1961)
Since the copyright on the Book of Commandments has expired, it is very obvious that the only reason they would not allow us to have these photocopies was that they wanted to keep them hid from the general public. We appealed to William E. Berrett (Vice Administrator of the Brigham Young University) to help us obtain these photocopies of the Book of Commandments. In a letter to us, dated April 24, 1961, William E. Berrett stated:
I find, on contacting the Director of our libraries, that we do not have in our libraries an original of Wilford Woodruff's copy of the Book of Commandments but only a reproduction. The original is in the hands of the Church historian in Salt Lake City.
I find that it is the policy of this library and the other libraries throughout the nation to make copies of any document or book available that has been published upon request but not to be reproduced where they do not own the original. This is a universal policy at the Brigham Young University library and of most libraries throughout the nation. Owners of original manuscripts may bring suit against any library that reproduces for distribution copies of the original manuscripts.
Since Mr. Berrett stated that libraries throughout the nation would make "copies of any document or book available that has been published upon request," we asked him if he would write to the Church library to get us photocopies of their Book of Commandments. In a letter dated April 27, 1961, William E. Berrett replied:
As to whether we can obtain a photograph of one of the Book of Commandments in the Church library... I do not know, but I will make inquiry for you.
Mr. Berrett did write to the Church historian's Office, and in a letter to us dated May 5, 1961, he stated:
I regret that I cannot achieve any success in helping you obtain a copy of the Book of Commandments which you seem to desire. I have written to the Church historian's Office but find that their policy will not permit them to send a photocopy of Wilford Woodruff's book or of the copy of the original Book of Commandments which they possess,...
I did not disclose to them who I wanted the copy for, but in their reply they indicated that they had refused a copy to you and that I would have to divulge the name of the individual who wanted a copy.
Not being satisfied with this answer, we wrote directly to Joseph Fielding Smith, however, he would not send us the photo-copies. The Asst. Church Historian, A. William Lund, also refused. In a letter to us dated June 12, 1961, he stated:
I am returning the five dollar bill as I am not interested in the project you have in mind.
Finally, we appealed to David O. Mckay, but we were refused any help with the matter.
In 1961, with the help of several others, we had the Book of Commandments reprinted by photo-offset printing (the first 41 pages from the photo-copies obtained at the B.Y.U. and the remaining pages from a microfilm of the copy at Yale University). As we indicated earlier (see pages 51-52), we were not allowed to advertize this book in the Salt Lake City newspapers.
Wilford Wood later brought out a reprint of the Book of Commandments, but the Mormon leaders stopped the Deseret Book Co. from selling it (see pages 52-56). Besides being printed in the Book of Commandments, many of those revelations were also printed in the church paper, The Evening and Morning Star, before they were ever printed in the Doctrine and Covenants. The way they were printed in the Evening and Morning Star agreed with the way they were printed in the Book of Commandments. When the revelations were altered in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Evening and Morning Star was reprinted and the revelations were also changed in it to agree with the Doctrine and Covenants. In other words, it was not a true reprint, but a falsified or bogus reprint.
...to make a bad matter worse, they reprinted the first fourteen numbers of the Evening and Morning Star at Kirtland in 1835, where they changed every revelation printed therein, which had harmonized with the Book of Commandments, so that they would be in agreement with the altered and mutilated versions as they appeared in the Doctrine and Covenants. (The Book of Commandments Controversy Reviewed, by Clarence L. Wheaton and Angela Wheaton, Independence, Mo., 1950, page 67)
The Book of Commandments had 65 chapters, however, it can be shown that the changes made in these revelations did not constitute all of the changes made in the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 68 of the Doctrine and Covenants was not printed in the Book of Commandments, but it was printed in the Evening and Morning Star. When it was reprinted in the Doctrine and Covenants it was changed.
Another example of this kind of alteration is found in a comparison of Section 68 of the Doctrine and Covenants with the way it was first printed in the Evening and Morning Star, in Independence, Missouri, for October, 1832, page 3. In this revelation as changed and altered, 323 words were added and 21 left out. (The Book of Commandments Controversy Reviewed, page 81)
Just how many changes were made in the Doctrine and Covenants can not be determined unless the church will allow all of the revelations, in their handwritten form, to be filmed. Of course, they will not do this. When a woman wrote the Historian's office requesting a microfilm of these revelations in their handwritten form, she received the following reply:
We are enclosing herewith a $25.00 in currency you forwarded for a microfilm of the original handwritten revelations of Joseph Smith.
This work has never been microfilmed.
The Mormon Church will spend thousands of dollars to microfilm genealogical records, but they do not dare release a microfilm of Joseph Smith's revelations, even when the money is provided.
Mervin J. Petersen, who wrote his thesis for the BYU, found that 703 words have been changed, 1,656 words added and 453 words deleted since the revelations were first printed in the Book of Commandments. ("A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations...," typed copy, p.118)
Besides the thousands of changes that were made in the revelations that were first published in the Book of Commandments and other early publications, one whole section on marriage has been removed. Also, the Lectures on Faith, which comprised 70 pages of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, have been completely removed from later editions. (Mormon writers admit that the section on marriage and the Lectures on Faith have been removed, but very few of them will admit that there have been actual meaning changes in the revelations.)
All of these alterations have been made within 135 years. Imagine what would have happened to the Bible if the churches that preserved it had altered it at the same rate the Mormons have altered the Doctrine and Covenants. We would be lucky to have anything the way it was originally written! Mormon writers accuse non-Mormons of making changes, yet their own church has been guilty of this very thing. For instance Dr. Hugh Nibley makes this statement concerning a non-Mormon writer:
He begins by telescoping a helpfully explanatory letter from Brigham Young into a short, cynical, and brutal note, omitting the little dots which indicate that one is making deletions in a quotation, so that the reader assumes that he has B. Y.'s own statement before his eyes. This, we should warn the student, is a bit drastic; it is in fact libellious—but what are the chances of its being discovered? (Sounding Brass, Salt Lake City, 1963, page 118)
Evidently Dr. Nibley is well informed on the rules a writer should follow when making quotations. Why have the Mormon leaders not followed these rules? Where are the "little dots" to show that deletions have been made in Joseph Smith's revelations?
Study of Changes
In order to show some of the important changes that were made in the revelations we obtained photographs of Yale University's original copy of the Book of Commandments. Because of the age of the book a few of the pages were not too clear, therefore, we have used photographs from another original copy of the Book of Commandments to replace the photographs that were unclear.
We have compared these pages with the revelations as published in the 1966 printing of the Doctrine and Covenants and have marked the changes on the photographs. Therefore, the text is an exact photographic reproduction of the pages of the original Book of Commandments, and the handwriting shows the changes that would have to be made in the text to bring it into conformity with the 1966 printing of the Doctrine and Covenants. Although there have been many changes in the chapter headings, we have not bothered to mark them.
The Book of Commandments has 160 pages in it, but since we are limited on space in this study, we have selected only the pages which contain important changes. Notice that we have assigned a letter to some of the changes that we want to discuss later in the study.
[1833 Book of Commandments Compared to 1966 Doctrine and Covenants]
Since we are limited for space in this study, we have cut out portions from the photographs of the Book of Commandments so that we can show the greatest number of changes in the least amount of space. There have been many other changes which we do not have room to show here. We have, however, tried to include all of the major changes.
As we have indicated earlier, other revelations beside the ones which appeared in the Book of Commandments were also changed. Some of these revelations were first published in the Evening and Morning Star and the Times and Seasons. (These, of course, were Mormon publications.)
We have cut out some of these revelations from photographs of the original publications and have marked the changes which would have to be made in them to bring them into conformity with the 1966 printing of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The reader will notice that sections 121, 122 and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants were taken from letters originally written by Joseph Smith and others while they were in Liberty Jail. More than 3,700 words were deleted from these letters when they were reprinted in the Doctrine and Covenants.
As we indicated earlier, we have placed letters by some of the changes which we wish to discuss. We will deal with some of them at this point. (Click on the links to view changes made to the original publications).
CHANGE A [link] — This is certainly one of the most significant changes in the Doctrine and Covenants. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, gives us this interesting information:
After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more. He said he was through the work that God had given him the gift to perform, except to preach the gospel. He told us that we would all have to depend on the Holy Ghost hereafter to be guided into truth and obtain the will of the Lord. (An Address To All Believers In Christ, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, page 32)
The fact that Joseph Smith was not planning on doing any other work besides the Book of Mormon is well verified by the revelation given in March of 1829. This revelation was printed in the Book of Commandments as chapter 4. Verse 2 reads as follows:
...and he has a gift to translate the book, and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.
By the year 1835, when this revelation was reprinted in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith had pretended to at least one other gift besides that of translating the Book of Mormon, he had pretended to the gift of rewording the Bible (Inspired Version), and a short time after this he brought forth the Book of Abraham. Certainly this revelation commanding Joseph Smith to pretend to no other gift but to translate the Book of Mormon could not remain in its original uncensored form. This change in church policy necessitated a change in the revelation. The Mormon Church had decided to go beyond the Book of Mormon and accept Joseph Smith's other writings as scripture. Therefore, this revelation was changed to read as follows:
And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift, until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 5, verse 4)
Thus the entire meaning of this revelation was changed, making it appear that the Lord would grant him more gifts than that of translating the Book of Mormon. At least 22 words were added to this verse to make the change. David Whitmer made this statement concerning the change in this revelation:
...he [Joseph Smith] was not called to organize and establish the church any more than the rest of us Elders. That God commanded him that he should pretend to no other gift but to translate the Book of Mormon, that God would grant him no other gift.
...as if God had commanded Joseph to pretend to no other gift but to translate the Book of Mormon, that he would "grant him no other gift," and then afterwards God had changed his mind and concluded to grant him another gift. God does not change and work in this manner. The way the revelation has been changed, twenty two words being added to it, it would appear that God had broken His word after giving His word in plainness; commanding Brother Joseph to pretend to no other gift but to translate the Book of Mormon, and then the Lord had changed and concluded to grant Joseph the gift of a Seer to the Church...
May God have mercy on the heads of the church for their transgression is my prayer. (An Address To All Believers In Christ, pp. 57-58)
CHANGE B [link] — Notice that the words "you must wait yet a little while, for ye are not yet ordained" have been added to this revelation. This revelation was supposed to have been given in March of 1829. Some Mormon writers have claimed that God has a right to add to His word after it is given. But, we ask, why would the Lord wait more than five years to give them this information? What good would it do to give them this information years later? In order for a warning to do any good it has to be given right at the time.
Many of the changes in the revelations appear in be equivalent to locking the barn door after the horse has got out.
CHANGE C [link] — Notice that 154 words have been deleted from verses 5 and 6 of this revelation. Melvin J. Petersen, a Mormon apologist, stated,
Joseph Smith... was dissatisfied with the wording of verses five and six in portraying the concept he had received, and therefore he omitted verses five and six of Chapter four and rewrote in their place verse three of the 1835 edition,... ("A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations...," typed copy, page 140)
Melvin Peterson seems to feel that Joseph Smith had a perfect right to do this. Although we feel that Joseph Smith had a right to revise his own writings, we do not feel that he had a right to revise the revelations which he claimed to be the words of God. If this was a revelation from God, what right did Joseph Smith have to delete part of it?
David Whitmer made this statement concerning this change:
The next change I will notice is one of importance. It is in Section 4, Doctrine and Covenants [Section 5 of current Utah Edition]: Chapter 4. Book of Commandments. Half a page has been left out of this revelation. I believe that the object of those who left it out was to strike out the following words:
And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and I will put down all lying, etc.,***** and I will establish my church, LIKE UNTO THE CHURCH WHICH WAS TAUGHT BY MY DISCIPLES IN THE DAYS OF OLD.
They knew that the order of offices in the Church of Latter Day Saints, was not like the order in the Church of Christ of old; because the Church of Christ of old had in it only elders, priests and teachers: so they left out this part of the revelation when they published the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. (An Address To All Believers In Christ, page 60)
We feel that there may have been another reason for deleting these words, but we will have to deal with that in another volume.
CHANGE D [link] — This revelation is supposed to contain a translation of a parchment written by the Apostle John. Joseph Smith was supposed to have translated it by means of the Urim and Thummim. When this revelation was published in the Book of Commandments in 1833, it contained 143 words, but when it was reprinted in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835, it contained 252 words. Thus 109 words had been added.
Mormon writers are unable to explain why Joseph Smith changed this revelation. Melvin J. Petersen made this statement:
In Chapter six of the Book of Commandments we find a revelation which was a translation from parchment upon which the Apostle John wrote his Gospel. When the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published this revelation had many additions and a few changes. (Section thirty-four.) The additional words and sentences reveal more concerning John and his ministry. How Joseph Smith had this information revealed to him, by means of the Urim and Thummim, is not clear.... What part revelation played in receiving this information concerning John is not known, nor is it known as to how the translation was enacted. We do know that additions and changes were made by Joseph Smith....
Joseph Smith left nothing in his writings to indicate why he added to this translated version... and so any plausible answers will be merely conjecture. ("A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations as Found in a Comparison of the Book of Commandments and Subsequent Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants," Master's Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955, typed copy, pages 154-155)
Actually, there are only three logical explanations as to why this revelation reads different in the Doctrine and Covenants than it did when printed in the Book of Commandments. First, before reprinting this revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith may have decided to falsely attribute words to the Apostle John that he did not utter. This explanation would mean that Joseph Smith was a deceiver. Second, before the revelation was reprinted the Lord may have shown Joseph Smith that he had not translated the parchment correctly with the Urim and Thummim and that he must add in 109 words to make it correct. This explanation would place a shadow of doubt upon Joseph Smith's ability as a translator. Any individual who left out 109 words of a translation would be considered a very poor translator indeed! Third, Joseph Smith may have received the full text of the revelation to begin with but suppressed part of it when the Book of Commandments was printed. Melvin J, Petersen states:
Doctor Sidney B. Sperry,... has suggested that it is possible that Joseph Smith edited the translation in its first published form and then later wrote down the complete translation as it is found in our present text. Whether this suggested answers be right or wrong cannot be determined until further evidence is brought to light upon the problem. ("A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations...," typed copy, page 155)
This explanation would also make Joseph Smith a deceiver since he did not put in "the little dots which indicate that one is making deletions." Furthermore, there was no real reason to suppress 109 words from the revelation. This revelation is printed on page 18 of the Book of Commandments, and a careful examination of this page reveals that part of the page has been left blank and that there was enough room to include these words. Therefore, there would have been no reason to suppress part of the revelation.
CHANGE E [link] — We plan to discuss this change in a chapter on Priesthood in a later volume.
CHANGE F [link] — This is one of the most important changes in the Doctrine and Covenants, but we will have to wait until the next volume to discuss its significance.
CHANGE G [link] — This change will also be discussed in a later volume.
CHANGE H [link] — David Whitmer made this statement concerning this change:
The next important change I will speak of, is made in a revelation which was given to Brothers Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and myself in Fayette, New York, June, 1829. I was present when Brother Joseph received it through the stone. It is Chapter 15 Book of Commandments, Sec. 16 Doctrine and Covenants [Sec. 18 in current Utah Ed.]. In the Book of Commandments it reads thus:
Behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, CONCERNING MY CHURCH, MY GOSPEL, AND MY ROCK. Wherefore if you shall build up my church, and my gospel, and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.
But in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants it has been changed and reads thus:
Behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning the foundation of' my church, my gospel, and my rock; wherefore, if you shall build up my church upon the foundation of' my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.
The change in this revelation is of great importance; the word "them" refers to the plates—the Book of Mormon: We were commanded to rely upon it in building up the church; that is, in establishing the doctrine, the order of offices, etc.: "FOR IN THEM ARE ALL THINGS WRITTEN CONCERNING MY CHURCH, my gospel, and my rock." But this revelation has been changed by man to mean as follows: That therein is not all things written concerning the church, but only all things concerning "the foundation of" the church—or the beginning of the church: that you must build up the church, beginning according to the written word, and add new offices, new ordinances, and new doctrines as I (the Lord) reveal them to you from year to year:... When the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was compiled in 1834, the church had then received many revelations to establish new offices and doctrine that are not even mentioned in the New Covenant of either of the two sacred books. They changed this revelation in order to sustain these new doctrines. If they had not made this change, the plain language of the original revelation would have condemned the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. I want to repeat that I was present when Brother Joseph received this revelation through the stone: I am one of the persons to whom it was given, therefore I know of a surety that it was changed when printed in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1834... There are several of the old Book of Commandments yet in the land; bring them to light and see for yourselves that these revelations were changed just as I tell you.
These changes were made by the leaders of the church, who had drifted into error and spiritual blindness. Through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, Brother Joseph was led on and on into receiving revelations every year, to establish offices and doctrines which are not even mentioned in the teachings of Christ in the written word. In a few years they had gone away ahead of the written word, so that they had to change these revelations, as you will understand when I have finished. (An Address To All Believers In Christ, 1887, pages 58-59)
CHANGE I [link] — Notice that 97 words have been added. David Whitmer made this statement concerning this interpolation:
The next change of importance is in a revelation given in Fayette, New York, June, 1830... They have put it in the Doctrine and Covenants as "Section 17", [Section 20 in current Utah Ed.]...
The heading over it in the Book of Commandments is as follows: "The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, given in Fayette, New York, June, 1830." Two paragraphs have been added to it, having been thrust into the middle of it. Paragraphs 16 and 17 is the part added, [verses 65-67 in current Utah Ed.] which part speaks of high priests and other high offices that the church never knew of until almost two years after its beginning: As if God had made a mistake in the first organization of the church, and left out these high important offices which are all above an elder; and as if God had made a mistake and left these high offices out of that revelation when it was first given. Oh the weakness and blindness of man! (An Address To All Believers In Christ, page 59)
CHANGE J [link] — Notice that in this revelation Emma Smith—Joseph's wife—is told that she would be supported "from" the Church, but in the Doctrine and Covenants it has been changed to make it appear that Joseph Smith would support her "in" the Church. The Mormon leaders have condemned other churches for having a paid ministry. This change was evidently made to cover up the fact that Joseph Smith was receiving money from the Church.
CHANGE K [link] — Notice that over 400 words have been added to this revelation. Part of the interpolation concerns the visitation of Peter, James and John to Joseph Smith. The Mormon leaders claim that they restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. David Whitmer, however, claimed that the Melchizedek Priesthood came into the Church by a process of evolution rather than by revelation. The fact that these words concerning the visitation of Peter, James and John had to be added to the revelation tends to confirm David Whitmer's charge. We hope to say more about this change in a chapter on Priesthood in a later volume.
CHANGE L [link] — Notice that in the Book of Commandments the Mormons were told to "consecrate ALL" their properties to the Church, but in the Doctrine and Covenants they were told only to "consecrate OF" their properties.
The Mormons were accused of attempting "to establish communism." The change in the revelation was evidently made to cover up the truth concerning this matter. Fawn Brodie stated:
Joseph Smith set up an economic order in his church which followed with a certain fidelity the life history of the typical communistic society of his time. ... Joseph issued a revelation setting up the United Order of Enoch.... Private property became church property, and private profit a community spoil....
Whatever surplus the steward exacted from the land, or whatever profit the mechanic derived from his shop, was contributed to the church storehouse and treasury, the convert keeping only what was "needful for the support and comfort" of himself and family. The spirit of true Marxian communism—"from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"—was implicit in the whole system. (No Man Knows My History, page 106)
Sidney Rigdon may have been the one who influenced Joseph Smith to start the United Order. The Mormon writer Klaus J. Hansen states:
Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery and two other Elders,... stopped over at Kirtland, Ohio, and converted almost the entire Campbellite congregation of Sidney Rigdon, including Rigdon himself. These "Disciples of Christ," who lived in a communistic order, became the nucleus for the Mormon settlement in Ohio. Joseph Smith, at first, likewise attempted to establish a communitarian society. ("The Theory and Practice of the Political Kingdom of God in Mormon History, 1829-1890," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1959, typed copy, pp. 74-74)
Fawn Brodie states: "Joseph's enthusiasm for the United Order was always tempered by the fact that it was Rigdon's conception." (No Man Knows My History, page 108) He decided that it would not work out as he had planned. Therefore, it became necessary to change the revelation to cover up the original plan.
CHANGES M, N, O, P, Q and R — These changes will be dealt with in a chapter on Priesthood in a later volume.
CHANGES S and T [link] — Aleah Koury, of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, made this accusation against the Utah Mormon Church:
In order to lend support to the doctrine of a plurality of gods, the contents of a letter written by Joseph Smith and others on March 20, 1839, were deliberately altered....
Approximately a year after Joseph obtained his freedom from prison, these original letters were published in the Times and Seasons, Nauvoo, Illinois,... At this time, Joseph Smith was living in the city of Nauvoo, and his brother Don Carlos Smith and Ebenezer Robinson were the editors of this church publication. If there had been errors in these letters, Joseph and those who signed them with him had ample opportunity to correct them, not only before but after publication. But it should be carefully noted that this was the only printing of these letters during Joseph's lifetime.
However in January, 1855, more than ten years after the death of Joseph Smith, the Utah church reprinted the first letter in the Millennial Star, Liverpool, England,... and in doing so, deliberately changed and altered the letter from the original as printed in the Times and Seasons. This altered letter was again reprinted in the Utah church history... These portions of this altered letter were placed in the 1876 edition of the Utah Doctrine and Covenants as revelations from God, with the preamble to Section 121 beginning: "Prayer and Prophesies, written by Joseph Smith the Prophet..." But at no time during Joseph's lifetime were these letters presented either in whole or in part as a revelation from God for the church.
A comparison of the original letter written by the prophet as contained in the Times and Seasons and the subsequent printings in the Millennial Star, Utah church history, and Utah Doctrine and Covenants reveals some of the deliberate alterations made in order to support the doctrine of a plurality of gods. Reference to deity in the Times and Seasons account reads:
...was ordained in the midst of the council of heaven in the presence of the eternal God, before this world was.
This statement was altered in the Utah church publications to read:
...was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was...
In addition, the following statement was also added to the Utah church publications which has no counterpart in the original letter:
A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest.
This whole fabrication was a deliberate misrepresentation to implicate Joseph Smith in the promulgation of an unscriptural doctrine of a plurality of gods foreign to the teachings of the original church. (The Truth and the Evidence, by Aleah C. Koury, Independence, Mo., 1965, pages 25-27)
Garland E, Tickemyer (a minister in the Reorganized LDS Church) presents an entirely different view, however. His idea seems to be that Joseph Smith himself may have changed the letter before it was printed in the Times and Seasons:
On March 25, 1839 while Incarcerated in Liberty, Mo., Jail, Joseph Smith and his companions Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin and Alexander McRae appended their signatures to a letter addressed to the church. This letter first appeared in printed form in the Times and Seasons in November 1839. Some years later the Utah Mormon Church included in their Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 121-2-3, what has been generally regarded by their critics as an altered version of that letter since it contains several hundred changes from the letter as it first appeared in the Times and Seasons. The writer has joined in criticisms of the Utah Mormon Church for this apparently unwarranted "doctoring" of the letter to make it compatible with their plurality of Gods views.
In the process of doing research for this thesis, the writer became aware of a claim of the Utah Mormons that they had the original letter in their archives and that their Doctrine and Covenants version was taken direct from the original.
On March 30, 1954, while passing through Salt Lake City, the writer spent considerable time in gaining access to this purported original letter. With the permission of Joseph Fielding Smith, he and a companion, Jay T. McCormick, made a fairly careful examination of it. It was noted that the letter was addressed to the church, but the mailing address on the back was to Emma Smith. It is evidently in the handwriting of one of Joseph's companions which is not unusual since Joseph Smith almost always used a scribe when one was available. It bears Joseph's signature along with those of his companions.
Before looking at the letter the writer asked Mr. Smith how he could be sure the letter was actually an original. Mr. Smith said we would have to judge that for ourselves.
The writer is not a handwriting expert but he has examined a number of old letters in the archives of the Reorganized church which are known to be originals. In every respect this letter in the Utah files appears to be as genuine as any that he has examined. It is well preserved, having been covered with a type of transparent Japanese silk which permits handling without damage to the paper.
The letter originally published in the Times and Seasons is evidently a synopsis of this letter and even the Utah Mormon Doctrine and Covenants version contains only excerpts of this letter. The gentleman in charge of the library advised us that there were a few minor and insignificant changes from the original wording. We did not attempt to compare the wording throughout because of shortage of time. Since our interest was principally in the two disputed phrases we looked for them. We found that the Utah version is a correct copy of the letter we examined so far as the two phrases are concerned.
The disputed statements "whether there be one God or many," is not a forthright endorsement of a plurality of Gods concept. However, the phrase "in the midst of the council of Gods" is a fairly obvious reference to a plurality of Gods.
We now have the first evidence in this letter of something that was written during Joseph's lifetime. Its authenticity will doubtless be questioned, however, until it is available for examination by experts. The historian advised me that only two other Reorganized Latter Day Saints had ever seen the letter. One of them was Frederick M. Smith, a former president of the Reorganized church who is said to have been shown the letter by George Albert Smith, later president of the Mormon Church. We must also take into account the fact that when the letter was published the wording was changed, undoubtedly with the consent of and probably by its writers. We are still left to wonder which represented Joseph Smith's true view; the one written under the stress of prison life, or the more carefully considered version that he released to the world as representing the belief of the church. One gains the impression that he or his companions may have been speculating on the possibility of eternal progression but were not sufficiently certain of their position to make it official. ("A Study of Some Representative Concepts of a Finite God in Contemporary American Philosophy With Application to the God Concepts of the Utah Mormons," M.A. thesis, University of Southern California, 1954, typed copy, pp. 48-51)
If Joseph Smith suppressed the statements on the plurality of Gods when the letter was printed to the Times and Seasons (as Garland Tickemyer's thesis suggests), then he was guilty of deliberate deception. In a speech delivered June 19, 1844, when Joseph Smith was openly teaching the plurality of Gods, he stated:
I will preach on the plurality of Gods,... I am bold to declare I have taught all the strong doctrines publicly, and always teach stronger doctrines in public than in private. (History of the Church, Vol. 6, page 474)
If Joseph Smith suppressed the words concerning the plurality of Gods from the Times and Seasons, his statement quoted above would certainly be false.
Be this as it may, the Utah Mormon leaders find themselves faced with a dilemma. If they say that Joseph Smith changed the letter, they make him a deceiver. If, on the other hand, they say that the letter was changed in 1855—i.e., when Joseph Smith's History was printed in the Millennial Star—they implicate Brigham Young, the second President of the Mormon Church, who approved the revision of Joseph Smith's History (see History of the Church, Vol. 7, page 243). The Reorganized Church is in trouble if it can be shown that Joseph Smith changed the letter (which Garland E. Tickemyer's thesis seems to show), but the Utah Mormon Church is in trouble either way. Even if the references to the plurality of Gods were in the original letter, why did Joseph Smith delete them before publication? And why were many of the words—approximately 3,700—which were printed in the Times and Seasons, later deleted?
It seems to us that both churches must come to grips with the fact that Joseph Smith himself was a deceiver. It is true that the Utah Mormon leaders made many changes in Joseph Smith's History, but the Reorganized Church leaders must admit that the pattern for this deception was established by Joseph Smith. We have shown that it was Joseph Smith who changed the story of his First Vision and the revelations which were first printed in the Book of Commandments. Therefore, Joseph Smith was responsible for furnishing the "blueprint for dishonesty" which the Utah Mormon leaders have used to establish their church.
Mormon leaders have been very free in accusing others of making changes. For instance, they have accused the Catholics of changing the Bible. In the Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:26-29, we read:
...thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
...because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men,... because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:26-29)
Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. (son of the Mormon Historian Joseph Fielding Smith) made this statement:
Scholars do not deny that the original text of the Bible has been corrupted. Truths have been removed in an attempt to preserve traditions. Faulty translations and omissions of phrases and clauses have resulted in confusion. (Religious Truths Defined, page 337)
On page 175 of the same book we find the following statement:
The early "apostate fathers" did not think it was wrong to tamper with inspired scripture. If any scripture seemed to endanger their viewpoint, it was altered, transplanted or completely removed from the biblical text. All this was done that they might keep their traditions. Such mutilation was considered justifiable to preserve the so-called "purity" of their doctrines.
The Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt made this statement:
Who knows that even one verse of the whole Bible has escaped pollution. So as to convey the same sense now that it did in the original? (Orson Pratt's Works, 1891, page 218)
On another occasion the Apostle Orson Pratt stated:
23.—The Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible from which translations have been made, are evidently very much corrupted,... the learned are under the necessity of translating from such mutilated, imperfect, and, in very many instances, contradictory copies as still exist. This uncertainty, combined with the imperfections of uninspired translations, renders the Bibles of all languages, at the present day, emphatically the words of men, instead of the pure word of God.
24.—In order that the nations may have a perfect standard of salvation, it is necessary that they should have the pure word of God, free from all the imperfections of human wisdom and learning; free from the accumulating errors of ages of successive copying; free from the mutilations and alterations of unprincipled and wicked men; and free from the ignorance and uncertainty, arising from the absence of many lost books. (Pamphlets by Orson Pratt, page 71)
Mark E. Petersen, a Mormon Apostle, made this statement concerning the Bible:
Many insertions were made, some of them "slanted" for selfish purposes, while at times deliberate falsifications and fabrications were perpetrated. (As Translated Correctly, Salt Lake City, 1966, page 4)
On page 14 of the same book, Mark E. Petersen stated:
It is evident then that many of the "plain and precious" things were omitted from the Bible by failure to choose all of the authentic books for inclusion, and by deliberate changes, deletions and forgeries,...
Joseph Smith himself stated:
I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. (History of the Church, Vol. 6, page 57)
Thus we see that the Mormon leaders, who have been guilty of making deliberate changes themselves, have been very critical of others. In John 8:7 we read "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone..."
The Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen stated:
It seems unthinkable to the honest and devout mind that any man or set of men would deliberately change the text of the word of God to further their own peculiar purposes. (As Translated Correctly, page 27)
We certainly agree that it would be dishonest to change the "Word of God," but we wonder how the Mormon leaders can justify the changes in Joseph Smith's revelations, since they consider them to also be the "Word of God." Bruce R. McConkie stated:
As now constituted the Doctrine and Covenants contains 136 sections... Most of these sections came to Joseph Smith by direct revelation, the recorded words being those of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. (Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City. 1966. page 206)
Now, certainly after we see the charges made against the Bible by the Mormon leaders, we would expect Mormon writings to be completely free of changes or alterations of any kind. Of all Mormon writings we would expect the Doctrine and Covenants to be the most pure and free from revision. The reason for this is that the Doctrine and Covenants purports to be the revelations given directly from God to Joseph Smith—not just a translation. We would expect these revelations to be completely free from alteration. We would expect to find nothing removed or changed in any way. Yet, upon careful examination, we find thousands of changes. How can the Mormon leaders explain this?
While many of the Mormons deny that the revelations were changed, some admit that changes were made but try to justify them by saying that God has a right to change His word. Melvin J. Petersen wrote:
Once a man has been recognized and accepted as a prophet and favored with communications from God, his great responsibility is to make sure, inasmuch as he has power to do so, that those to whom the communications are directed, understand what God has revealed for them. The power is his to revise, correct, omit, or change any of his writings in order that he might manifest more clearly what God revealed through him.
A prophet cannot be justly criticized when he rewrites the commandments he received from God, for he is only doing that which is part of his role as a prophet. ("A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations...," pages 164-165)
We cannot understand how Melvin Petersen can reason in this way. The Bible certainly does not support his ideas about changing revelations. In Deuteronomy 4:2 we read:
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
In Proverbs 30:5-6 it is written:
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
The Bible teaches that God's word is never to be altered once it is given. In Revelations 22:18-19 we read:
...If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, made this statement:
Is it possible that the minds of men can be so blinded as to believe that God would give these revelations—command them to print them in his Book of Commandments—and then afterwards command them to change and add to them some words which change the meaning entirely? As if God had changed his mind entirely after giving his word? Is it possible that a man who pretends to any spirituality would believe that God would work in any such manner? (Saints Herald, Feb, 5, 1887)
If the revelations were from God, why would they have to be changed? Was not God capable of giving the revelations right the first time? Is the God of the Doctrine and Covenants a changeable God? If so, he is not the God of the scriptures, for in Malachi 3:6 it is written:
For I am the Lord, I change not;...
At first Joseph Smith seemed to be very opposed to any changes being made in the revelations. When Oliver Cowdery asked him to change one of the revelations, Joseph wrote:
I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from a revelation or commandment from Almighty God. (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 105)
Joseph Fielding Smith said the following concerning this incident:
Joseph immediately answered by letter that he could not alter the revelations of the Lord. (Essentials in Church History, page 109)
Joseph Smith taught that the revelations contained the very words of Christ. Edward Stevenson related the following:
Father Sanford Porter, while living in Jackson County, Mo., in 1832, was desirous to know how the Prophet translated the characters which were engraven on the gold plates, and made it a matter of prayer. While the Prophet was receiving a revelation in Jackson County, Missouri, Father Porter was present in the room and while observing that the Prophet would speak a sentence to be written by a scribe engaged for that purpose, the scribe would say, "It is written," and if written correctly the sentence before the Prophet would disappear and another sentence would appear likewise, but if not written correctly by the scribe the sentence would remain and after the necessary correction had been made, the sentence would disappear. (Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, by Edward Stevenson, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1893, page 30)
On page 42 of the same booklet we find the following:
In order to show how particular the Prophet was regarding revelations which he received from the Lord, I will relate an incident which occurred in Liberty jail. While the Prophet was receiving a revelation, the late Bishop Alexander McRae was writing as Joseph received it. Upon this occasion Brother McRae suggested a slight change in the wording of the revelation, when Joseph sternly asked:
Do you know who you are writing for?
Brother McRae, who at once discovered his mistake, begged the Prophet's pardon for undertaking to correct the word of the Lord.
David Whitmer made this interesting statement concerning the changes in the revelations:
I want to tell the brethren, that when the Doctrine and Covenants was published and presented to that assembly on that occasion, a very few of the brethren knew at that time about those "changes" in revelations concerning "Joseph's gift" and "to rely upon the Book of Mormon in building up the church," etc. In time it was generally found out, and the result was as I have stated. I want to state also that Oliver Cowdery told me that Rigdon was the cause of those changes being made: by smooth talk he convinced Joseph, Oliver, and F. G. Williams that it was all right. Oliver told me that he had sorely repented of that thing; and be repented of the other errors he had been led into by Rigdon and others. Bro. John Whitmer likewise. Thank God I can say that Bro. John and Bro. Oliver come out of their errors, repented of them, and died believing as I do to-day. I stand today just where I and the others stood in the early days of the church when the Bible and the Book of Mormon were the rule and guide to our faith. (Saints Herald, Feb, 5, 1887)
Ebenezer Robinson stated:
On the 17th day of August, 1835, a general assembly of the church convened... to hear the report of the compiling committee of said book, and determine by vote, whether they accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith,... We attended that meeting, and noticed that a majority of those voting did so upon the testimony of those who bore record to the truth of the book, as they had neither time or opportunity to examine it for themselves.
They had no means of knowing whether any alterations had been made in any of the revelations or not. (The Return, Vol. 1, page 89)
Most of the changes were apparently made in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Melvin J. Petersen has a chart on page 121 of his thesis, "A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations as Found in a Comparison of the Book of Commandments and Subsequent Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants," in which he lists the editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and the number of changes which were made in each edition. Below are the figures given in this chart.
1835 Edition—2643 Changes
1844 Edition—18 Changes
1845 Edition—36 Changes
1846 Edition—No Changes
1852 Edition—11 Changes
1854 Edition—10 Changes
1876 Edition—2 Changes
1882 Edition—1 Change
1921 Edition—91 Changes
Sometimes the changing of only one word can make a great deal of difference in meaning. Daniel Macgregor shows that even a capitalization change made in one of Joseph Smith's revelations may have been significant:
The attempt to use the Preface Revelation as an endorsation of the Doc. & Cov. was pure plagiarism. That Preface was given for the Book of Commandments as paragraph 2 will show:
Behold this is mine authority and the authority of my servants and my preface unto the Book of My Commandments which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.
In the original Book of Commandments the name of the Book is capitalized, emphasizing it as distinctively referring to the name of that Book. In the Doc. & Cov. this name is cut down to lower case letters with the evident intention of minimizing the name, that the term might be appropriated to some other compilation of the Commandments. (Changing of the Revelations, page 26)
In the "Explanatory Introduction" to the Doctrine and Covenants (page v) [see page 256 of the 1835 D&C] we find what purports to be the testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the Doctrine and Covenants. On the next page the reader will find a photograph of this purported document.
Among the names signed on this purported document we find that of William E. McLellin. In later years, however, McLellin claimed that this "testimony" was a "base forgery":
Apostle McLellin says: "So far as the testimony of the Twelve published in that book (Doc. & Cov.) is concerned, it was a base forgery. The Twelve left Kirtland in May, proceeding on an eastern tour. They were in the State of Maine, or at least in the east. They held their last conference in Farmington, Maine, Oct. 24th, 1835. So their testimony could not in truth be in that Assembly in Sep. 24th, 1835," Saints Herald, Aug. 1, 1872. (Changing of the Revelations, by Daniel Macgregor, Independence, Mo., page 32)
Daniel Macgregor makes this statement concerning the "testimony":
The testimony, however, does not mention the Doc. & Cov. Never squints at it. And in view of the fact that this testimony is practically the same as that given by the same men to sustain the Book of Commandments, it is difficult to escape the suspicion that it is one and the same. It looks like another case of plagiarizing, stealing from the Book of Commandments to build up the Doc. & Cov. (Changing of the Revelations, page 31)
As Mr, Macgregor indicates, the testimony to the Book of Commandments is almost identical. It appears in Joseph Smith's history under the date of Nov. 1, 1831:
The testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord's commandments, which He gave to His Church through Joseph Smith, Jun., who was appointed by the voice of the Church for this purpose; we therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth and upon the islands of the sea, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost, shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true. We give this testimony unto the world, the Lord being our helper; and it is through the grace of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, that we are permitted to have this privilege of bearing testimony unto the world, that the children of men may be profited thereby. (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol.1, page 226)
William E. McLellin had much to say about the changes in the revelations. The Salt Lake Tribune for Oct. 6, 1875, printed the following statement regarding Dr. McLellin:
His faith was first shaken by the changes made in the revelations. He had been careful to keep copies of the originals, presented proof that all the early revelations were changed three times, and considerably amended before they appeared in their present form.
William B, McLellin is reported as saying:
In 1835 in Kirtland another committee was appointed to fix up the revelations for print again. I was teaching their high school in the lower room, the printing office being overhead. And I was often in Joseph's office, and know positively that some of the revelations were so altered, mutilated and changed that a good scholar would scarcely know them. In one revelation I counted 20 alterations! Hence, who can depend upon them? I cannot. I will not. ... All your trouble arises from your taking that mutilated and altered Doctrine and Covenants. (Saints Herald, Vol. 17:556, 557, as quoted in Changing of the Revelations, page 6)
Chas. W. Lamb quotes this statement from a letter written by W. E. McLellin in 1877:
For instance he says: — "I found that Smith did not always tell the truth... he materially altered his own revelations before they were ever printed." (The Return, Davis City, Iowa, Nov. 1890, page 364)
David Whitmer had a great deal to say about the changes in the revelations. (It should be remembered that David Whitmer was one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon.) The following is taken from one of David Whitmer's pamphlets:
I want to tell the brethren, that when the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was published, and presented to the church assembly in Kirtland, Ohio, in August, 1835, as recorded in the old church papers, a very few of the brethren then knew about most of the important changes that had been put in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. In time it was generally found out, and the result was that some of the members left the church on account of it. A few members dissented from the church as early as 1832, on account of the spiritual blindness of some of the leaders. When it became generally known that these important changes had been made in the Doctrine and Covenants, many of the brethren objected seriously to it, but they did not want to say much for the sake of peace, as it was Brother Joseph and the leaders who did it. The majority of the members—poor weak souls—thought that anything Brother Joseph would do, must be all right; so in their blindness of heart, trusting in an arm of flesh, they looked over it and were led into error, and finally all talk about it ceased. I was told that Sidney Rigdon was the cause of those changes being made: by smooth talk he convinced Brother Joseph and that committee that it was all right.
The editors of the old church papers, Evening and Morning Star and Messenger and Advocate, admit that some changes were made in some of the revelations; that they added some items to some revelations, from other revelations. I will not accuse those who did it of being fully aware of the grievous error they were making when they added those items—that is, made those changes; I would rather believe that they were spiritually blinded when they did it: and that Satan deceived them, whispering to them that it was all right and acceptable unto God.
Some of the Latter Day Saints have claimed that God had the same right to authorize Brother Joseph to add to any revelations certain words and facts, that He had to give him any revelations at all: but only those who are trusting in an arm of flesh and are in spiritual blindness, would pretend to make that claim; that God would give his servants some revelations, command them to publish them in His Book of Commandments, and then authorize them to change and add to them some words which change and reverse the original meaning: as if God had changed his mind after giving his word. No brethren! God does not change and work in any such manner as this; all those who believe that God does work this way, my prayer for them is that they may repent, for they are in utter spiritual blindness. (An Address To All Believers In Christ, by David Whitmer, Richmond, Mo., 1887, pp. 57-61)
David Whitmer also stated:
You have changed the revelations from the way they were first given and as they are to-day in the Book of Commandments, to support the error of Brother Joseph in taking upon himself the office of Seer to the church. You have changed the revelations to support the error of high priests. You have changed the revelations to support the error of a President of the high priesthood, high counselors, etc. You have altered the revelations to support you in going beyond the plain teachings of Christ in the new covenant part of the Book of Mormon. You have changed and altered the revelations to support the error of publishing these revelations in a book: the errors you are in, revelations have been changed to support and uphold them. You who are now living did not change them, but you who strive to defend these things, are as guilty in the sight of God as those who did change them. (An Address To All Believers In Christ, page 49)
At the start of this chapter we quoted the Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe as saying that non-Mormons have been "afraid" to discuss the Doctrine and Covenants. We have shown that this statement is completely untrue. Furthermore, there is evidence that the Mormons themselves were embarrassed about the Doctrine and Covenants when it was first published. In 1837 Joseph Smith instructed the missionaries that went to England to keep secret the fact that the church had a book of Doctrine and Covenants:
My instructions to the brethren were, when they arrived in England, to adhere closely to the first principles of the Gospel, and remain silent concerning the gathering, the vision, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,... (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol, 2, p. 492)
Joseph Smith related the following incident that occurred in England:
...Elder Goodson, contrary to the most positive instructions of President Kimball, and without advising with any one, read publicly the vision from the Doctrine and Covenants, which turned the current of feeling generally, and nearly closed the door in all the region. (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 505)
Eventually, however, the Mormons had to admit to the people in England that they had such a book. Wilford Woodruff, who later became President of the Mormon Church, made this statement in 1845:
I had also the pleasing reflection of knowing that I had, upon this 7th day of June, A. D. 1845, the pleasure of securing unto the church the copyright of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants... which book is one of the most important records ever presented to this or any other generation, and is now for sale at our office in Liverpool, and our agents throughout the United Kingdom, to the church and all who wish to purchase, of every sect and party under heaven. Let our enemies cease to accuse us of wishing to keep this work secret.... I entered the work at Stationers' Hall, London, and secured a certificate of the entry of the copyright, which secures unto us the right of printing it throughout the British dominions, notwithstanding the prints laid by some of our enemies in secret chambers in the city of Pittsburgh, to rob the church of the copyright of that book by entering it before me. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 6, pages 1005-1006)
In 1904 Francis M, Lyman, a Mormon Apostle, was questioned concerning the Doctrine and Covenants. He testified as follows:
Mr. WORTHINGTON. You have not mentioned the Doctrine and Covenants. Is that circulated, too?
Mr. LYMAN. No; not so much.
Mr. WORTINGTON. In what proportion do you circulate the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon?
Mr. LYMAN. Oh, the Doctrine and Covenants is not circulated as a book to make converts with. It is not circulated at all. If anybody wants it—we do not put it forward; but the Book of Mormon and the Articles of Faith. Then, there is the Voice of Warning, by Parloar [Parley] P. Pratt, and Key to Theology by Parloar [Parley] P. Pratt, and works of that kind.
. . . . .
Mr. WORTHINGTON. In what proportion is the Doctrine and Covenants circulated, compared with the Articles of Faith, the Talmage book, which we have here?
Mr. LYMAN. We do not look upon the Doctrine and Covenants as a book to circulate at all. It is a law of the church, the word of the Lord to the church, and the law and discipline, but for the doctrines of the church we take the commentaries more. (Reed Smoot Case, Washington, 1904, Vol, 1, pp. 444-445)
The Apostle Hyrum Smith testified as follows:
Mr. HYRUM M. SMITH. So far as I, myself, am concerned in missionary work, and those who immediately labored with me, we made no effort to circulate the Doctrine and Covenants among people as a proselyting medium. The Book of Mormon was used extensively for that purpose.
. . . . .
Mr. WORTHINGTON. Then, among those who are your members and who know all about the manifesto and this matter being forbidden by law, the Doctrine and Covenants is used a great deal more than it is among people who are not members and when you are doing missionary work?
Mr. HYRUM M. SMITH. Yes, sir; and if I may be permitted to add here, I would like to do so in relation to the editions. I think it was relating to the Doctrine and Covenants that the question was asked, I believe, how it was that a number of editions has been issued recently.
Now, if I am not mistaken, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was referred to, I will say that, in my opinion, those books were purchased by the Latter-day Saints themselves and not for distribution for proselyting purposes. (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, page 510)
In this chapter we have shown that the Mormon leaders have denied that changes were made in Joseph Smith's revelations, yet, upon careful examination, we have found that thousands of changes have been made. The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe has charged that critics have been "afraid" to discuss the Doctrine and Covenants. We have found however, that this statement is completely false. Moreover, we have shown that the Mormons themselves suppressed the Doctrine and Covenants when it was first printed.
In a later volume we plan to present more evidence that the revelations printed in the Doctrine and Covenants could not have come from God.