Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 3: The Public Revelation.

This is part 3 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here. Part 4, the post following this one, is here.

Street knowledge of the July 12 revelation existed in Nauvoo.[1] However, the first printing of the revelation was nearly a decade away from the delivery date. In the meantime, polygamy had a small core of practitioners. It appears that during the late spring of 1843, Emma wavered in her opposition to the practice and various stories exist about her selecting wives for Joseph (the Partridge sisters for example). In any case, Joseph and Emma were sealed six weeks prior to the writing of section 132.[2]

Printing the July 12, 1843 Revelation

Brigham Young stated that he kept the Kingsbury copy of the revelation himself after Joseph’s death.[3] The imprints of the revelation are as follows:

1. Deseret News Extra (Sept. 14, 1852), 25-7. Salt Lake City, Utah.
2. The Seer, (January 1853), 7-11, Washington, D.C. (based on 1). Pratt introduced verse numbers (The Seer) for the first time. Pratt renumbered the verses to the present form in 1876.
3. Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star (January 1, 1853), 5-8. Liverpool, UK. (based on 1).
4. Millennial Star Supplement, 1853. (based on 3).
5. Deseret News (January 21, 1857), 361-2. (The imprint is based on the Manuscript History version of the revelation.)
7. Millennial Star (November 5, 12, 1859). This is a reprint of 5.
8. Millennial Star (April 28, 1866), 257-261. (based on 3).
9. George A. Smith’s pamphlet, “Answers to Questions,” published initially in 1869 and reprinted twice in 1872 and 1873.
10. Millennial Star “An Answer” (February 13, 1869), 107-111. (This is a reprint of the material in 9. But subtitled, Deseret News in reference to 1, above.)
11. Millennial Star “The Resurrection” (November 22, 1875), 746-750. This imprint has the verse numbering matching that of the Seer (no. 2 above) but this is probably accidental since both simply placed digits at the beginning of the paragraphs of 1.
12. The next five imprints of the revelation appeared in the 1878, 1879, 1882, 1888 and 1891 editions of the Pearl of Great Price, which was canonized in 1880.
13. Doctrine and Covenants 1876, 1879, etc. The 1921 edition followed the format of 14 below. The Joseph Smith Papers website has a Doctrine and Covenants section number list for some editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. However, it is a bit more incomplete for section 132 since it neither lists early imprints or later editions of the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price. The July 12 revelation first appeared as a part of the Doctrine and Covenants in Pratt’s edition of 1876 where it received the same number (132) as in the current edition.
14. B. H. Roberts ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 5:501-507, 1909 and reprints. Roberts submitted the text of revelations to the church presidency.

The canonical status of the revelation in the LDS church has not been in doubt since Pratt’s 1880 edition Doctrine and Covenants (a footnote system had been added to the 1876 text) and his 1878 edition of the Pearl of Great Price were accepted as Standard Works of the church in the October 1880 church conference.[4]

As I get into the text of the revelation, I think it becomes clear, again, that the revelation was never meant for the public. At least a portion of the revelation has some personal language about Emma, and it is doubtful that Joseph saw this as appropriate for an edition of the Doctrine and Covenants or a Nauvoo broadside.

Next time: the text.
[1] Hyrum showed the revelation to various people, including members of the Nauvoo high council. William Law related his introduction:

I hereby certify that Hyrum Smith did, (in his office,) read to me a certain written document, which he said was a revelation from God, he said that he was with Joseph when it was received. He afterwards gave me the document to read, and I took it to my house, and read it, and showed it to my wife, and returned it next day. the revelation (so called) authorized certain men to have more wives than one at a time, in this world and in the world to come. It said this was the law, and commanded Joseph to enter into the law.—And also that he should administer to others. Several other items were in the revelation, supporting the above doctrines.

Law’s public response is found in the text of the Nauvoo Expositor. The Expositor is not only on the inside of the polygamy underground and its texts, but the Nauvoo Theology. Aside from its sometimes florid language, it is well worth the time for a read, to see the nature of dissent in Illinois (and some anti-Mormon name calling: “heaven daring, hell deserving, God forsaken villains”).

James Allred left this report of High Council incident: “At a meeting of the High council in Nauvoo, Sept 23 1843 Br Hirum Smith read the revilation relating to the plurality of wives, he said he did not believe it at first, it was so contrary to his feelings, but he said he knew Joseph was is a profit of God, so he made covenant that he would not eat, drink, or sleep untill he knew for himself, that he had got a testimony that it was true, that he had even had the voice of God concerning it. This is what James Allred stated on the night of the 15th of October 1854.”

[2] Andrew H. Hedges, et al., The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals 2, xxiv-xxxii. Newel Bringhurst, Craig Foster, eds. The Persistence of Polygamy (John Whitmer Books, 2010); Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness (Midvale, UT, 1997); Steven C. Harper, Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants (SLC, 2008), 477-89; Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy (Midvale, UT, 1989); Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy 3 vols. (Draper, UT, 2013); Merina Smith, Revelation, Resistance and Mormon Polygamy (Logan, UT, 2013); Samuel M. Brown, In Heaven as it is on Earth (Oxford, 2012); Kathleen Flake, “The Emotional and Priestly Logic of Plural Marriage,” Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture Series (15), Logan, Utah; Andrew F. Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances,” BYU masters thesis, 1982 (there is a bit of contamination from Hofmann forgeries here); B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992); Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham, Mormon Polygamy: Its Origin, Practice, and Demise (Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier) (Clark, 2007); Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910 (Urbana, 2008); Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling (New York, 2005), 437-446, 473, 490-9; George Dempster Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy (Midvale, UT, 2008), 573-639; Daniel W. Backman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (1975) (masters thesis, Purdue University); Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, 2002); Jessie L. Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle (Salt Lake City, 1987); Embry, Mormons and Polygamy (Orem, UT, 2007). Last but not least is J. Stapley’s BCC post here.

Brigham Young (JD 11:267):

If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by, and he will put it away that it will not be known in the Church. I did not ask Him for the revelation upon this subject. When that revelation was first read to me by Joseph Smith, I plainly saw the great trials and the abuse of it that would be made by many of the Elders, and the trouble and the persecution that it would bring upon this whole people. But the Lord revealed it, and it was my business to accept it.

The claim that Joseph Smith read the revelation to Brigham Young is important for reasons of custody. The soonest this might have happened was October 23, 1843, when the apostles returned from a swing through the East Coast.

One of the interesting claims about Joseph and sealing comes from Parley Pratt. In his posthumously published autobiography, Pratt claimed that Joseph taught him about sealing while on his 1839 Washington trip.

During these interviews he taught me many great and glorious principles concerning God and the heavenly order of eternity. It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.

Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.

It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.

It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring.

Pratt was actually working against Joseph early in 1843 (Willard Richards to Brigham Young, July 16, 1843). Pratt’s recital probably compresses a number of experiences and feelings over a considerable period including post-Nauvoo thought. But see Given and Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (Oxford, 2011), 202ff, for a somewhat different take.

[3] Deseret News Extra, September 14, 1852. The provenance of the Kingsbury copy works something like this: with the death of Joseph and Hyrum, the church’s historian, Willard Richards, assumed control of those materials in Joseph’s office and the historian’s collections, while Emma had ownership of materials in the Mansion House, such as the Egyptian papyri. Whitney apparently did not have custody of the Kingsbury copy in October 1843 after which Joseph Smith read it to Brigham Young, and Joseph may have returned the Kingsbury copy after that (see part 4 for reasons he may have done this). At any rate, Whitney held the Kingsbury copy in 1847, when Brigham Young requested it in March of that year. Young kept it in his possession until August 1852 when it was copied by Willard Richards. Joseph C. Kingsbury’s own affidavit about copying the revelation appears in Andrew Jensen’s Historical Record (May 1887):226. See part 1 of the series for Clayton’s affidavit. The Kingsbury copy was the basis for the Deseret News imprint, while the Richards copy may have been the basis for the Manuscript History version, which in turn was the base text for the “History of Joseph Smith” series in the Times and Seasons and then the Deseret News. The History was edited for inclusion in the Millennial Star and the Star formed the basis for B. H. Roberts’ History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vols. 1-6 published between 1902 and 1912.

[4] See Deseret News (October 11, 1880), 2.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Many thanks for your service in providing this continuing series. It is much needed.

  2. Thanks, Kevin.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    Solid work. Interesting thought about the private nature of it.

  4. I also appreciate your efforts in these series.

  5. Good stuff as always.

  6. Thanks, J., ricke, kevinf.

  7. I love the web format – the ability to click around to all your references. It’s great stuff. Gotta moderate, though, or I’m going to get fired.

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