Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 3. Spiritual Mechanics.

In honor of the Doctrine and Covenants study this year, this is the third post a series on one of the sections that doesn’t get too much play in the Gospel Doctrine course this year.

Now, in the previous part of this post, I showed you where Brother Orson got the text for D&C 130. Why did he go there you ask?[1]

In this part of the post I’m going to explore the text in a slightly different way. The Millennial Star text (Pratt’s source for D&C 130) was derived from the Salt Lake City church newspaper, The Deseret News. The News text was derived from the Manuscript History of the Church, an 1855 era construction (see part 1). The logical thing to do now is ask, where did the Manuscript History text come from? I mean this particular part. The thing as a whole is a maze of compiled texts from a whole lot of sources.

The answer to this question on the Manuscript History text is complicated. I’ll take part of D&C 130 (not the portion used in part 2–for a bit of variety) and place it side by side with another text.

D&C 130 Text From The Joseph Smith Diary
18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

22 The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

23 A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.

whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life. it will rise with us in the resurrection,–

and if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence through his obedience & diligence than another he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.–

There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundation of the world upon which all blessings are predicated

and when we obtain a blessing it is by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated.

I again reverted to Elders Hyde mistake. &c.

the Father has a body of flesh & bones as tangible as mans the Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.–and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him,–

Orson, you're always a good foil.  I appreciated it. That chair pose is not the most flattering thing you've done, though.

Bro. Hyde, you were always a good foil. I appreciated it. I have to say, just to continue our theme, that the chair pose is not the most flattering thing you’ve ever done.


The most obvious difference here is the business about the Holy Ghost at the end. In the text on the right, “Elder Hyde’s mistake” is the key to understanding what comes after. Joseph is poking a little fun at Hyde’s preaching. Orson Hyde had spoken earlier and Joseph had raised an objection to his language (the Holy Ghost dwelling in the heart was a part of Hyde’s speech Smith was referring to).
I know, right? And I hate having to stand here for 30 minutes.

I know, right? And I hate having to stand here for 30 minutes. I must say though, your profile shots are not great. I suggest the Gittins look.

The correction involved a little Mormon exceptionalism: God has a body, so does Jesus, and the Spirit is a spirit. Ok. But a Spirit still can’t dwell in your heart. The dwelling in the heart language is partly “literal” (I hate to use the word now because people jump on you for it) and partly romantic. Joseph seems to object to either sense.

This however is not the most interesting thing. Observe the diary text: the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.–and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him,


Compare this with D&C 130 again:

the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. 23 A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him. the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.–and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him

The text on the right should take precedence over the one on the left, it being the elder of the two, right?

Notice that this is not really an empty issue. The sense of the Elder Text is new (to us). The edited version that we read in D&C 130 seems to violate the spirit of the diary text: the correction of Elder Hyde for positing an indwelling business. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost that comes to man. The Holy Ghost does not hang out (and not in) man as a personage. At least that’s my reading of the source. This seems like a reasonable thing. Joseph Smith did preach about the Satanic minions trying to get inside the bodies of humans (with New Testament precedence). The idea that the Holy Ghost might need to squeeze into an already occupied body just feels odd somehow. Of course, it is one of the curiosities of our theology that God is embodied necessarily to be God, but two of the centers of consciousness we also call God, didn’t need that augmentation to be God.

The erasures and markups that appear in the manuscript history related to D&C 130 (partially represented in part 1) point to several rewrites. At least some of the erased material comes from somewhere besides the Smith diary: the William Clayton diary. Other parts of the text show that Clayton was indeed a source document of the history at this point. The motivation for the edits is obscure. Still other portions of the manuscript history text are not connected to either the Smith diary (Willard Richards) or the Clayton diary. We will look at some of that later.

None of the likely editorial candidates for the history were present at the sermon in Ramus. These include George A. Smith, church historian during the period of composition of this portion of the history, Brigham Young, who reviewed sections of the history at times after Joseph’s death (and as the King Follett discourse shows, did edit portions of the history text), and Thomas Bullock, who occasionally had some editorial input.

While the manuscript history text was published in the Deseret News during the 1850s, it’s unlikely that anyone saw it as canon at the time.

Don't look at me.  I didn't do the hatchet job.

Don’t look at me. I didn’t do the hatchet job.

So, again, this shouts to us: where did the modified text (in Red) of the history come from? And why? You’ll have to wait for that. Whatever happens, I can report that the answer depends on which part of the text you look at.
[Part 4 is here.]
————-

[1] You were supposed to answer that in the last installment. I’m trying to make this relevant and entertaining. The other permas held a meeting (at the instance of the Ghost of Steve Evans) and decided the blog was too boring and the culprits of boredom would be eliminated. Fortunately, only three of them have ever read my posts so they couldn’t get a 2/3 majority. They may be reading this though. Just a guess.

Comments

  1. The difference to me almost sounds like intent of the HG. It descends upon us to enlighten our minds, but it doesn’t come to us to tarry with us and receive the experience of an embodied spirit. (possess us)

    I’d assume there was much thought as you pointed out about the importance of a body and spirits trying to posses them. So perhaps he was just pointing out that the HG does not come to us in order to tarry with us.

    In that case it would change the intent of the D&C verse (HG doesn’t attempt to posses us) but it would also seem true that the HG comes to us and enlightens our minds but we aren’t guaranteed constant companionship of the HG (ie it may not tarry with us)

    These kinds of literal things are always interesting to me as we don’t give them a second thought in our own concerns -similar to Brigham saying it wasn’t the HG that made Mary pregnant others all women who receive the gift of the HG would become pregnant ( that’s one I’d never worry about). I wonder how that teaching by him was influenced on this subject from Josephs other teaching of spirits.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    How accurate do you think that the sermon report is?

  3. J. Stapley says:

    …also, I don’t know what I like more, the content or the captions.

  4. Kaphor, I think the JS diary version suggests that receiving the Holy Ghost refers to the “gift of the Holy Ghost” and that does not seem to require any personal intervention of the personage of the Holy Ghost. The “descend upon him” seems to reference the account of Jesus’s baptism where JS himself declared no personal Holy Ghost in the dove, it was a “sign.” I think the intent of the JS diary account is that the influence of God may act at a distance.

  5. J, I’m not sure as far as accuracy. Accuracy is always a problematic thing in text studies anyway, but in terms of whether D&C 130 gives us a somehow faithful account of what JS said in Ramus, I’d say “not very.” In one of the posts I’m going to offer a critical edition of the section, fwiw. And the section itself is complicated by other issues as well. More to come on that.

    The paradox in all this is Orson Pratt’s selection. He selects material whose relation to Joseph Smith is several times removed in several ways. Given our present prejudices and scholarly landscapes, this might have been the last thing to be chosen as “canon.” Then there are texts that can be demonstrated to be very close to Joseph Smith, both intentionally and other archetypal metrics, that are just as exceptional, and sadly were not chosen for the honor. I’m not saying I would change anything if I could. I think the canonical process is not likely to lead to anything useful in the present-day church, in terms of JS. I think D&C 137 shows this. But that’s another story.

  6. Just wanted to say I love these posts. I always learn something. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for reading, David T.

  8. is the Holy Ghost ever the author of revelation, or just the messanger?

  9. The Holy Ghost is God.

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