Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 6. An Interview with Elder Orson Pratt And A Critical Text of D&C 130.

[The preceding part is here.]

This is the penultimate post in the series on Doctrine and Covenants section 130. Last time I gave you a genetic text for D&C 130. This time its a critical edition.

We’re nearly at the end of the line, people. The BCC survey results show that this sort of thing is the least popular item in our repertoire. But I really don’t care if you don’t like reading this stuff. It’s good for you. It broadens your religious horizons and it makes you wonder about your assumptions. Well, that’s what I’m selling at least.

So, here we go. A critical edition of D&C 130. What exactly is that? This question is still debated among theorists for good reason. One thing it cannot be is a genuine recovery of Joseph Smith’s words on the occasion. Even if it were possible to clearly define what that means and then deliver it, there is no guarantee that the words convey the meaning infused by the sights, sounds and feelings of the Event. Theoretical and practical issues aside, Elder Orson Pratt is responsible for the text of D&C 130. Therefore, we at BCC thought it only righteous to ask a few pointed questions of the man himself. Each member of the BCC staff submitted questions. I immediately saw that mine were the only ones to pass the reverence test (I mean really, Evans wanted to ask whether there were bicycles in heaven? I won’t even repeat what Tracy suggested.).

Elder Pratt left behind this image to accompany his interview.  BCC felt it only appropriate to publish it in light of the extraordinary honor.

Elder Pratt left behind this image to accompany his interview. BCC felt it only appropriate to publish it in light of the extraordinary honor.

1. Orson, what did you intend by extracting this portion of the Millennial Star text of the History of Joseph Smith?

Ans. Well, I wanted to convey some of the later teachings of Joseph in his own words. Paraphrasing him seemed inauthentic.

2. Brother Pratt, what gave you confidence in this extraction? I mean that it consists of the authentic words of Joseph?

Ans. Hmmm. I know that it came from the History of Joseph and it looks like, I mean the language conveys the idea that Joseph himself wrote it down, right?

3. But Elder Pratt, you did realize what the process was in deriving the text for the History, correct?

Ans. I wasn’t on site much when it was written, but it was fairly common knowledge that the church historians sought reliable bits to make it up.

4. What do you think of the idea that the clerks and historians gathered texts from different sources to expand the actual records available for April 2, 1843? Possibly even supplying words that were never spoken by Joseph?

Ans. I think I’m ok with most of that. I didn’t write your current preamble for that section, after all. And that Brigham (rolls eyes upward) he might do anything.

5. True enough, but you did say that the words were spoken on April 2nd, right?

Ans. Yes, yes, yes. Can’t we get over that? Are you finished? I’ve got bigger things to do than answer your questions, silly mortal.

What I gather from Orson’s brief interview is that he was more interested in intention than historical accuracy. In other words, does section 130 convey Joseph’s intent, even if it doesn’t represent a verbatim transcript of the April 2, 1843 meetings?

The question of intent may be as difficult as facsimile-like accuracy. Authorial intent is often constructed from reviewing author-intervention with a text. Usually what we have from Joseph is merely the opportunity to compare other texts produced from his oral instruction/preaching corpus. Another question I wanted to ask Orson before he so abruptly signed off: what else might you have added to this stream of quotes? I mean there are far more reliable texts of Joseph’s teachings than this one. What was the big attraction here? My guess at his answer? He liked the astronomical thing. Time, etc. God on a planet. Moreover, it effectively contradicted the text he wanted to expunge from the previous editions of the Doctrine and Covenants: the 1835 lectures, the “Doctrine.” Meanwhile, Orson’s text is wonderful Mormonism and speaks to a thing he wanted to add to the Doctrine and Covenants: the Book of Abraham. I’ll mention this again in the final part of the series coming up next time. That post will have some simple graphics to illustrate the facts I’ve given in the series.

The final question is this: is there a better text of section 130 than Orson’s Star text? You must be the judge. Without apology, read on.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. An Eclectic Critical Text.

1 When the savior appears we shall see that he is a man like unto ourselves, and that same sociality which exists amongst us here will exist among us there only it will be coupled with eternal glory which we do not enjoy now.1

2 The appearing of the Father and the Son in John 14:23 is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false. The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. A person cannot have the personage of the Holy Ghost in his heart. He may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him.2

3 In answer to the question— “Is not the reckoning of god’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time and man’s time according to the planet on which they reside?” Joseph answered,

4 Yes, but there is no angel that ministers to this earth only what either does belong or has belonged to this earth and the angels do not reside on a planet like our earth but they dwell with God.3

5 The planet where God dwells is like crystal, and like a sea of glass before the throne. This is the great Urim and Thummim whereon all things are manifest both things past, present and future and are continually before the Lord.

6 The Urim and Thummim is a small representation of this globe. The earth when it is purified will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom or all kingdoms of a lower order will be manifest to those who dwell on it. And this earth will be with Christ.4

7 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17 is the Urim and Thummim whereby all things pertaining to an higher order of kingdoms, even all kingdoms, will be made known and a white stone is given to each of those who come into this celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.5

8 I prophesy in the Name of the Lord God that the commencement of bloodshed as preparatory to the coming of the Son of Man will commence in South Carolina. (It probably may come through the slave trade.) This the voice declared to me while I was praying earnestly on the subject December 25, 1832.6

9 (Verses 9-14 are taken from remarks delivered by Joseph Smith April 6, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, as reported by Willard Richards.) If I had not actually got into this work, and been called of God, I would back out. But I cannot back out. I have no doubt of the truth.

10 Were I going to prophesy, I would prophesy the end will not come in 1844 or 5 or 6. or 40 years more. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death until Christ comes.

11 I was once praying earnestly upon this subject and a voice said unto me. My son, if thou livest until thou art 85 years of age, thou shalt see the face of the son of man.

12 I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live until that time Jesus he would make his appearance.

13 But I do not say whether he will make his appearance or I shall go where he is.

14 I prophesy in the name of the Lord God and let it be written, that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens until I am 85 years old or 48 years hence or about 1890.7

15 Whatever principle of intelligence we obtain in this life will rise with us in the resurrection, and if a person gains more knowledge in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

16 There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundation of this world upon which all blessings are predicated; and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.8

[Series Epilogue is here.]
————-

1. William Clayton’s journal, April 2, 1843 (at Ramus, Illinois). The text paraphrases 1 John 3:2. An alternate reading is conveyed through Willard Richards in the Joseph Smith diary: And that same sociality which exists amongst us here will exist among us there only it will be coupled with eternal glory which glory we do not now enjoy. The appearance referenced in this text is probably meant as the second coming of Jesus. “eternal glory” may be a reference to the 2nd letter to the Corinthians (4:17).

2. Joseph’s reference to John 14:23 was a response to an earlier sermon by Orson Hyde. Elder Hyde was present on the journey to outlying communities near Nauvoo, Illinois (then headquarters of the church). The sermons delivered on this journey were the motivation for the majority of the text in this section.

3. The answer Joseph is purported to have given is in the longhand report of William Clayton, a competent reporter, but Clayton’s work should not be seen as a verbatim report. The use of techniques like robust shorthand systems were not effectively deployed in church reporting during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, and even then reports might be quite imperfect.

4. The text from verses 4, 5, and 6 originates in the William Clayton diary. An alternate reading appears in the Joseph Smith diary, as recorded by Willard Richards: “There are no angels who administer to this earth but who belong or have belonged to this earth. The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth. but they reside in the presence of God–-but on a Globe like a sea of glass and fire. ‘Sea of glass before the throne, etc.’ where all things are manifest past present and to come.–The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth in its sanctified and immortal state will be a Urim and Thummim for all things below it in the scale of creation, but not above it.” The Joseph Smith diary text states that the Prophet was quoting from the book of Revelation in his address.

5. The white stone echoes the Prophet’s own white seer stone alluded to at the opening of verse 6 (he had stones of several different colors and shapes), used in receiving revelations like the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. This reference to the white stone of the book of Revelation is then altogether appropriate to his listeners as a stone of revelation for the one who receives it. The text also may allude to the recently published Book of Abraham, especially the Facsimile No. 2 explanations, as well as the then privately circulated temple rituals.

6. This vocal revelation probably refers to the text appearing as Doctrine and Covenants 87:1-5. That revelation was not published during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Some early manuscripts suggest a date of December 25, 1835 for that revelation. Revelation Book 1 (see Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations Manuscript Revelation Books Facsimile Edition, p. 291) assigns the date as December 25, 1832. This is likely the correct date.

Bro. Smith, rewriting scripture is a dangerous thing.  Ever hear of William McLlellin?

Bro. Smith, rewriting scripture is a dangerous thing. Ever hear of William McLlellin?

Wait a minute? Aren't you the one who turned a bunch of disconnected narrative  into "autobiography?"

Wait a minute? Aren’t you the one who turned a bunch of disconnected narrative into “autobiography?”


7. Verses 9-14 are contained in Joseph Smith’s diary (written by Willard Richards) for the afternoon of April 6, 1843 and are part of a conference address by the Prophet. There are some alternate readings found in the journal of James Burgess and a notebook kept by Franklin D. Richards. Franklin Richards wrote: “Joseph said when he was asking to know of the time of Christs second Coming he obtained for answer my son if thou shalt live untill thou art Eighty five years old thou shalt see the son of man on Earth Joseph was born in Sharon Windsor County Vermont Dec 23 1805. He is therefore now 37 years old last Dec which leaves 48 years yet to transpire untill the tim [time] of Promise that Joseph should see Christ.” William Clayton’s report of the Ramus preaching on April 2 reads this way:
“I was once praying very ernestly to know the time of the coming of the son of man when I heard a voice repeat the following ‘Joseph my son, if thou livest untill thous art 85 years old thous shalt see the face of the son of man, therefore let this suffice and trouble me no more on this matter.’ I was left thus without being able to decide wether this coming referred to the beginning of the Millenium, or to some previous appearing, or wether I should die and thus see his face. I believe the coming of the son of man will not be any sooner than that time.”

Compare Joseph Smith’s sermons of March 10, 1844 and February 14, 1835. The Prophet’s opinion regarding the meaning of the words he received seems to have gradually modulated from a strict interpretation – Christ *will* come in his 86th year, to the present

Bro. Smith, rewriting scripture is a dangerous thing.  Ever here of William McLlellin?

I may have started the engine, but you drove that car to the end of the road. So there.

interpretation. The earlier interpretation may be represented in the “rising generation” remark, indicating a belief that Christ would come before the death of some persons then present, but not necessarily in 1890. Perhaps the gradual suggestion of flexibility of meaning for the experience evolved from the difficult experiences of Missouri and the postponement of the “redemption” of Zion. That Joseph was familiar with similar New Testament sayings suggests that his words may be seen in a similar light, but early Mormon prophetic language often contained extreme-sounding promises: witness early patriarchal blessings by Joseph Smith Sr.

8. Verses 15 and 16 are taken from William Clayton’s journal for April 2, 1843. The words concerning knowledge are very like the Prophet’s expressions regarding the power of knowledge in salvation, often apparently in reference to the forthcoming temple endowments and other ordinances. Additionally, the “law decreed in heaven” may refer to the Prophet’s frequent discussions of the role of sacraments in salvation, especially the temple ordinances and instruction that were ordained in pre-mortal councils.

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And there you go, an edition of Doctrine and Covenants section 130. May it never leave your consciousness.

Comments

  1. J. Stapley says:

    Love.

  2. Ditto.

  3. Very cool.

  4. David M. morris says:

    What a great series! I can reveal that there is a bicycle franchise in the heavens and the contract was awarded to the British Raleigh company with Trek just missing out.

  5. I haven’t had much of anything to add, but I have enjoyed reading these. Not to mention that I love the captions, and if you are taking requests for future interviews of historical figures, Edwin Rushton would be near the top of my list. I’d love to hear what he has to say now about all that White Horse stuff.

  6. Kevin I think I have his journal somewhere, he came from Leek in Staffs. Only 6 miles from me. He was part of a very interesting family including Joseph Smith’s and BY clerk Thomas Bullock. Ill have to revisit my thesis and see if had any other unique ideas…..

  7. Thanks all. David M. morris, this must be why there are those missing gold bricks in the streets. Those bikes are expensive.

  8. I love, love these posts.

  9. Thanks! I wonder if anyone has ever applied a standard of historical accuracy and rigor to the King Follett Discourse?

  10. Someone has, ji.

  11. it's a series of tubes says:

    he came from Leek in Staffs. Only 6 miles from me.

    6 miles… hmmm. I used to live about that far away from Leek, though only as the crow flies (Biddulph). Beautiful town and area. Time spent at the Roaches ranks among the best of my life.

  12. I’m in Tunstall,….

  13. This is really great, keep up the good work!

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