Your Sunday Brunch Special: The Lord’s Prayer, Ancient and Modern, (part II).

I suspect that most Latter-day Saints do not know that Joseph Smith revealed a new Lord’s Prayer. No, not in the Inspired Version or Joseph Smith Translation, revision, of the Bible. This was a revelation, almost certainly connected to that biblical revision work, but separate from it, a New Prayer for the Last Times, much like the original prayer was a prayer for the last times. To catch the vision here, I’ll take the Mathean prayer and place it in parallel with this new prayer, that was dictated on October 30, 1831. The context of the prayer is important, and it serves as a kind of preface for foundational revelations of November 1831 that defined church polity and established a form of government that carried on through modern manifestations of Mormonism.

Matthew 6 Doctrine and Covenants 65
9 . . . Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
1 Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful, whose going forth is unto the ends of the earth, yea, whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
2 The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
3 Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.
4 Pray unto the Lord, call upon his holy name, make known his wonderful works among the people.
5 Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth.
6 Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.

The prayer pronounced by Joseph Smith in this revelation is clearly an eschatological one, “make known his works among the people,” pray that God’s “kingdom may go forth on the earth.” “Prepare ye the supper of the Lamb” suggests the interpretation of the bread of Matthew, as found in part 1 of this post. Verse 6 includes the doxology from Matthew, something most scholars believe was a later addition to that text. This illustrates much of the approach of Joseph Smith’s translations. They retain much of what is familiar for the sake of the mechanics of acceptance and authority in the nineteenth century.

That said, Latter-day Saints seem to make little use of either the Old or New Prayers in liturgical ways. I think this is rather unfortunate, but perhaps we simply don’t have a good place to acknowledge them. Both are beautiful devotions and reckon with important narratives for Christian/Mormon premillennialism. The New Prayer carries a Mathean slant so to speak: it quotes both from the Old and New Testaments. I don’t have the inclination to examine these too closely here, but I’ll just call attention to verse 2: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth.” However we may understand this today (and that understanding is a legitimate as any) in the period when the revelation was dictated, “man” was seen as a direct reference to Joseph Smith, but not in the sense of “priesthood” particularly. Rather it referred to his gift to See, and hence to reveal, what was in Heaven. The keys unlocked Heaven so that the man could open the Heavenly doors, gates, and observe. Much is made of the seeric office in Joseph Smith’s early career, and this was one more reference to that. Of course, the language echoes Matthew 16, but I’m speaking of the early interpretation. Enough of that, though there are some worthy riches here.

In the first post, I looked at some of the textual issues with the Old Prayer. For the New Prayer, there are several important manuscripts, imperfectly aligned. Indeed, one of these manuscripts has language that adds nicely to the form. I’ll just consider two of these manuscripts here, and I may go more deeply into this text elsewhere (too many projects). The two manuscripts I’ll give here are designated as RB1 and WEM. RB1 refers to Revelation Book 1, as found in the Joseph Smith Papers, Manuscript Revelation Books. WEM refers to a copy of the revelation found in early Mormon and eventual apostle, William E. McLellin’s journal. McLellin copied the revelation within a few weeks of its dictation and probably from the original. RB1 represents another copy of the original. The original itself is not extant. Below, I give a variorum based on RB1, noting it’s differences with WEM in annotation (by line number). I also give a facsimile of WEM, since it is inconvenient to produce WEM from the variorum. So, here you go:

RB1-DC65

Click on the image to get a readable size.

Now for WEM independently:
WEM

The two manuscripts suggest several things about the archetype. One obvious one is that the archetype (original dictated manuscript) did not slavishly quote from Daniel in verse 2. The alignment with Daniel represents a redaction by Joseph Smith himself (“hewn from” is replaced by “cut out of”).

Note that McLellin’s preamble to the revelation text adds: “on the 6th Matthew 10 verse”. This suggests that the revelation is a commentary on the Old Prayer, or a response to it, perhaps renewing its eschatological stance, if you will. The revelation date puts it at some distance from Joseph Smith’s work on Matthew, about a month from that I believe, but near enough to make sense of that interpretation of it’s meaning.

There is a lot more that could be said here, certainly in a theological sense, but also a historical one. The revelation clearly fits with the early Mormon view that that Second Coming was an imminent event, only a few decades in the future, a prospect linked to the current Zion project in Missouri. The failure of that project (and its eventual placement in the eschaton) had profound effects on Joseph Smith and Mormonism in general.

Two Lord’s Prayers. Both beautiful expressions of belief and example.

Comments

  1. Comparing The “Our Father” in Matthew 6:9-13 with Joseph Smith’s DC 65:1-6 brings me to this conclusion: Nothing beats the profound simplicity of Jesus’ teaching on prayer as handed down by the Catholic Church versus Smith’s redundant eschatological verses. If Mormons never memorized DC 65:1-6, it is to their spiritual benefit that they never did.

    Jesus came to call men to abandon their sinful life and walk a life of holiness by following him. The “Our Father” is a prayer taught by Jesus himself to help the Christian disciple follow him. His memo to the apostles to teach all men the things he taught them includes that very special prayer. The Catholic Church took this memo seriously, that’s why many Christians know the “Our Father” by heart. And specifically, Matthew’s version, instead of Luke’s.

    In the most important Catholic ritual of the Holy Mass, that prayer is prayed everytime for the last 2,000 years in every Catholic assemby. Pray the Rosary, and in 30 mins. you would have prayed it 6 times. Follow Catholic liturgy, you will know the prayer eventually. But attend any Mormon ritual, and you don’t ever hear it prayed. Like the Cross, this prayer is almost abhorred. And it’s not because Mormons are averse to memorized or formulaic prayers.

    The aim of worthwhile exegesis should be to clarify scriptures so that hearers will understand better. Since Jesus calls men to live holy lives, exegesis should inspire men to follow Jesus in holiness. Your exegesis on the “Our Father” does not lead to Jesus. Rather, it leads to Joseph Smith. And Joseph Smith was never famous for leading a holy life.

  2. Thanks, WVS. This is really interesting and in line with the kind of work being done by Nick Frederick, Hardy, and others, in terms of examining how restoration scriptures engage and dialogue with the KJV text. I look forward to seeing how you develop this further.

  3. Thanks, David. There is much to be learned here, not only with LDS scripture, but early preaching. Early Christian hymns are usually wonderfully eclectic reflections on the Old Testament. They were only indirectly Christological. It’s fairly clear, even in readings of early Mormon gatherings, for that matter in the Articles and Covenants, that much of Mormon thought and speech is Protestant. Even Joseph Smith’s later sermons are sometimes largely creative echoes of Bible passages, troweled together in an expressive lath and plaster that makes new from old.

  4. I don’t know why I didn’t see this yesterday, and am glad that I finally did discover it. Thank you — “beautiful expressions of belief and example” to those with any familiarity with the Spirit, indeed.

  5. Thanks, Ardis.