Criticism of Mormonism/Books/The Changing World of Mormonism/Chapter 3

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 3: Changes in Revelations"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Criticism of Mormonism/Books, a work by author: Jerald and Sandra Tanner
Claim Evaluation
The Changing World of Mormonism
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Response to claims made in The Changing World of Mormonism, "Chapter 3: Changes in Revelations"

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Response to claim: 38 - "Mormon writers" have "admitted" that revelations have been modified after they have been received

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

According to the authors, "Mormon writers" have "admitted" that revelations have been modified after they have been received.

(Author's sources:
  • History of the Church, vol. 1, p.173
  • John William Fitzgerald, "A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants," Master's thesis, BYU, 1940, p.329
  • Melvin J. Petersen, "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, BYU, 1955, typed copy, p.147)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The fact that the revelations were edited has been known since they were first published in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835.



Question: Have edits to the revelations been discussed in the present day?

The official Church magazine, the Ensign has published several discussions of the editing process

  • Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants," Ensign (December 1984), 32. off-site
  • Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled," Ensign (January 1985), 27. off-site
  • Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
  • Gerrit Dirkmaat, "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God," Ensign (January 2013). off-site

Elder Boyd K. Packer also discussed the changes to the revelations in general conference

Elder Boyd K. Packer also discussed the changes to the revelations in general conference:

Some have alleged that these books of revelation are false, and they place in evidence changes that have occurred in the texts of these scriptures since their original publication. They cite these changes, of which there are many examples, as though they themselves were announcing revelation. As though they were the only ones that knew of them.

Of course there have been changes and corrections. Anyone who has done even limited research knows that. When properly reviewed, such corrections become a testimony for, not against, the truth of the books.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was an unschooled farm boy. To read some of his early letters in the original shows him to be somewhat unpolished in spelling and grammar and in expression.

That the revelations came through him in any form of literary refinement is nothing short of a miracle. That some perfecting should continue strengthens my respect for them.

Now, I add with emphasis that such changes have been basically minor refinements in grammar, expression, punctuation, clarification. Nothing fundamental has been altered.

Why are they not spoken of over the pulpit? Simply because by comparison they are so insignificant, and unimportant as literally to be not worth talking about. After all, they have absolutely nothing to do with whether the books are true.

After compiling some of the revelations, the ancient prophet Moroni said, “… if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mormon 8:17) “And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. …” (Mormon 8:12) [1]

It is difficult to understand how detailing changes and discussing them in general conference constitutes "hiding the truth." Church members pay comparatively little attention to such matters, however, because the mechanism by which revelations are produced are of far less importance than the content of the revelations, and whether the revelations are true.

B.H. Roberts discussed the changes in the revelations

And, B.H. Roberts also wrote of the publication of the revelations in 1833 that they

were revised by the Prophet himself in the way of correcting errors made by the scribes and publishers; and some additional clauses were inserted to throw increased light upon the subjects treated in the revelations, and paragraphs added, to make the principles for instructions apply to officers not in the Church at the time some of the earlier revelations were given. The addition of verses 65, 66, and 67 in sec. XX of the Doctrine and Covenants is an example. [2]

Marlin K. Jensen discussed the changes to the revelations

With the advent of the Joseph Smith papers project, Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen wrote an extensive article about changes and their rationale:

  • Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site

The claim that the changes have been hidden simply cannot be sustained.


Response to claim: 39 - John A. Widtsoe said that the revelations "have remained unchanged. There has been no tampering with God's word"

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

According to the authors, "Mormon apostle" John A. Widtsoe said that the revelations "have remained unchanged. There has been no tampering with God's word," and that Joseph Fielding Smith, the "tenth president," said that there was no need for "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"

(Author's sources:
  • John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, p.119
  • Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:170.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author's mine this quote, eliminating the portion about how information is provided "line upon line." The addition and updating of the revelations is consistent with this, as new information was revealed and integrated into what had been given previously.

Joseph Fielding Smith said,

RESTORATION: LINE UPON LINE. There is a beautiful thread of consistency running through the scheme of gospel restoration. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery could not foresee the end from the beginning, but the Lord was the Architect, and made known to them little by little, as knowledge and organization were needed, until the perfect structure of the Church was restored.

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.[3]





See Quote mining—Doctrines of Salvation 1:170 to see how this quote was mined.

Question: Have edits to the revelations been discussed in the present day?

The official Church magazine, the Ensign has published several discussions of the editing process

  • Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants," Ensign (December 1984), 32. off-site
  • Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled," Ensign (January 1985), 27. off-site
  • Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
  • Gerrit Dirkmaat, "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God," Ensign (January 2013). off-site

Elder Boyd K. Packer also discussed the changes to the revelations in general conference

Elder Boyd K. Packer also discussed the changes to the revelations in general conference:

Some have alleged that these books of revelation are false, and they place in evidence changes that have occurred in the texts of these scriptures since their original publication. They cite these changes, of which there are many examples, as though they themselves were announcing revelation. As though they were the only ones that knew of them.

Of course there have been changes and corrections. Anyone who has done even limited research knows that. When properly reviewed, such corrections become a testimony for, not against, the truth of the books.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was an unschooled farm boy. To read some of his early letters in the original shows him to be somewhat unpolished in spelling and grammar and in expression.

That the revelations came through him in any form of literary refinement is nothing short of a miracle. That some perfecting should continue strengthens my respect for them.

Now, I add with emphasis that such changes have been basically minor refinements in grammar, expression, punctuation, clarification. Nothing fundamental has been altered.

Why are they not spoken of over the pulpit? Simply because by comparison they are so insignificant, and unimportant as literally to be not worth talking about. After all, they have absolutely nothing to do with whether the books are true.

After compiling some of the revelations, the ancient prophet Moroni said, “… if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mormon 8:17) “And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. …” (Mormon 8:12) [4]

It is difficult to understand how detailing changes and discussing them in general conference constitutes "hiding the truth." Church members pay comparatively little attention to such matters, however, because the mechanism by which revelations are produced are of far less importance than the content of the revelations, and whether the revelations are true.

B.H. Roberts discussed the changes in the revelations

And, B.H. Roberts also wrote of the publication of the revelations in 1833 that they

were revised by the Prophet himself in the way of correcting errors made by the scribes and publishers; and some additional clauses were inserted to throw increased light upon the subjects treated in the revelations, and paragraphs added, to make the principles for instructions apply to officers not in the Church at the time some of the earlier revelations were given. The addition of verses 65, 66, and 67 in sec. XX of the Doctrine and Covenants is an example. [5]

Marlin K. Jensen discussed the changes to the revelations

With the advent of the Joseph Smith papers project, Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen wrote an extensive article about changes and their rationale:

  • Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site

The claim that the changes have been hidden simply cannot be sustained.


Brigham Young (1855): "I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness"

Brigham Young:

I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities...[6]


Response to claim: 41-42 - David Whitmer said that the revelations in the Book of Commandments were printed correctly and didn't need to be modified later

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

David Whitmer said that the revelations in the Book of Commandments were printed correctly and didn't need to be modified later.

(Author's sources: An Address to All Believers in Christ p. 56.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

David Whitmer had fundamentalistic ideas about scripture, but these are not—and were not—binding on the Church.



Question: What are the reasons for the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?

The Doctrine and Covenants was changed in order to correct errors or mistakes due to the human process of writing down revelations, as well as integrate new revelatory material

Wrote Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 2009:

One of Joseph Smith’s tasks in reviewing the manuscripts prior to their publication was to “correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the Holy Spirit.” Joseph knew from experience that the human process of writing down revelations, copying them into manuscript books, and then passing them through various hands in preparation for publication inevitably introduced unintentional errors. Sometimes changes were required to clarify wording. Occasionally, later revelations would supersede or update previously received revelations, necessitating the editing of documents to alter previous versions. Various other changes were also made from time to time. Most of these, such as dividing the text into verses or clarifying meaning, did not involve substantive corrections.

Joseph seemed to regard the manuscript revelations as his best efforts to capture the voice of the Lord condescending to communicate in what Joseph called the “crooked, broken, scattered, and imperfect language” of men." The revealed preface to the published revelations also seems to express this principle: “I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language” (DC 1:24).

Joseph and his associates were appointed by the actions of Church conferences to prepare the revelations for publication by correcting the texts. Recent analysis of both manuscript revelation books reveals how and when many of the changes were made. For example, some changes were made before selected items were published in Missouri, while others were made in Ohio before the 1835 publication of the Doctrine and Covenants.

One common example involves changes made by Sidney Rigdon. He often changed the language in the revelations from the biblical “thee,” “thy,” and “thine” to the modern “you,” “your,” and “yours.” Many of these changes were later reversed. He also corrected grammar and changed some of the language to clarify and modify words and meaning.

In a few cases, more substantive changes were made as revelations were updated for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. For example, section 20 was originally received in 1830, before much of the leadership structure of the Church as we know it today was revealed to Joseph Smith. By 1835 Joseph had organized many offices and quorums by revelation. To include this newly revealed ecclesiastical order, several text changes and additions were incorporated into section 20. Our current verses 65–67 on ordaining men to priesthood offices, for instance, had been revealed after the 1833 publication and were subsequently added to the 1835 publication.

Joseph Smith reviewed many of his associates’ editorial changes and made slight alterations in his own hand before A Book of Commandments was published in 1833. He made additional changes, including adding surnames to individuals mentioned in the revelations, just before the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835.

Sometime around 1834–35 in Kirtland, Ohio, Revelation Book 2 was used for the preparation of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, and all but eight items in the manuscript book were published in that 1835 volume. In contrast, just three of the revelations copied into the book were published in A Book of Commandments in 1833. Two of the manuscript book’s revelations were first published in the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants.

Subsequent editing changes through the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants involved occasional word changes, but the major substantive changes occurred under the Prophet Joseph’s guidance for the 1835 edition. [7]


Response to claim: 42 - David Whitmer objected to changing the revelations

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

David Whitmer objected to changing the revelations.

(Author's sources: Saints' Herald, Feb. 5, 1887)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

David Whitmer had fundamentalistic ideas about scripture, but these are not—and were not—binding on the Church.



Question: If the Doctrine and Covenants contained quotations from God, why would Joseph Smith later edit God's words?

Joseph did not always consider the words of the revelations to be "direct quotations" from God

It does not seem that Joseph considered the words which he wrote to be, generally, "direct quotations." As Elder John A. Widtsoe explained:

The language [of the Doctrine and Covenants], with the exception of the words actually spoken by heavenly beings, is the language of the Prophet. The ideas were given to Joseph Smith. He wrote them in the best language at his command. He was inspired at times by the loftiness of the ideals so that his language or words are far above that ordinarily used by a backwoods boy of that day.[8]

The concepts and ideas were God's, while the wording was Joseph's. That he freely and openly edited them demonstrates that he did not consider them to be some type of fixed, inerrant text.


Response to claim: 43 - D&C 68 was changed from its original printing in the Evening and Morning Star

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

D&C 68 was changed from its original printing in the Evening and Morning Star.

(Author's sources:
  • The Evening and the Morning Star, October 1832
  • Doctrine and Covenants—Sec. 68)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader





Response to claim: 45 - It is claimed that Joseph Smith was not supposed to do any translating beyond the Book of Mormon, as shown in Book of Commandments 4:2, which was changed in D&C 5:4

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that Joseph Smith was not supposed to do any translating beyond the Book of Mormon, as shown in Book of Commandments 4:2, which was changed in D&C 5:4.

(Author's sources: Book of Commandments 4:2; DC 5:4)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Revelatory material was added "line upon line."



Question: What are the reasons for the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?

The Doctrine and Covenants was changed in order to correct errors or mistakes due to the human process of writing down revelations, as well as integrate new revelatory material

Wrote Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 2009:

One of Joseph Smith’s tasks in reviewing the manuscripts prior to their publication was to “correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the Holy Spirit.” Joseph knew from experience that the human process of writing down revelations, copying them into manuscript books, and then passing them through various hands in preparation for publication inevitably introduced unintentional errors. Sometimes changes were required to clarify wording. Occasionally, later revelations would supersede or update previously received revelations, necessitating the editing of documents to alter previous versions. Various other changes were also made from time to time. Most of these, such as dividing the text into verses or clarifying meaning, did not involve substantive corrections.

Joseph seemed to regard the manuscript revelations as his best efforts to capture the voice of the Lord condescending to communicate in what Joseph called the “crooked, broken, scattered, and imperfect language” of men." The revealed preface to the published revelations also seems to express this principle: “I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language” (DC 1:24).

Joseph and his associates were appointed by the actions of Church conferences to prepare the revelations for publication by correcting the texts. Recent analysis of both manuscript revelation books reveals how and when many of the changes were made. For example, some changes were made before selected items were published in Missouri, while others were made in Ohio before the 1835 publication of the Doctrine and Covenants.

One common example involves changes made by Sidney Rigdon. He often changed the language in the revelations from the biblical “thee,” “thy,” and “thine” to the modern “you,” “your,” and “yours.” Many of these changes were later reversed. He also corrected grammar and changed some of the language to clarify and modify words and meaning.

In a few cases, more substantive changes were made as revelations were updated for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. For example, section 20 was originally received in 1830, before much of the leadership structure of the Church as we know it today was revealed to Joseph Smith. By 1835 Joseph had organized many offices and quorums by revelation. To include this newly revealed ecclesiastical order, several text changes and additions were incorporated into section 20. Our current verses 65–67 on ordaining men to priesthood offices, for instance, had been revealed after the 1833 publication and were subsequently added to the 1835 publication.

Joseph Smith reviewed many of his associates’ editorial changes and made slight alterations in his own hand before A Book of Commandments was published in 1833. He made additional changes, including adding surnames to individuals mentioned in the revelations, just before the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835.

Sometime around 1834–35 in Kirtland, Ohio, Revelation Book 2 was used for the preparation of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, and all but eight items in the manuscript book were published in that 1835 volume. In contrast, just three of the revelations copied into the book were published in A Book of Commandments in 1833. Two of the manuscript book’s revelations were first published in the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants.

Subsequent editing changes through the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants involved occasional word changes, but the major substantive changes occurred under the Prophet Joseph’s guidance for the 1835 edition. [9]


Response to claim: 52 - The name "Urim and Thummim" was added to the revelations later

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The name "Urim and Thummim" was added to the revelations later.

(Author's sources: Book of Commandments 9; DC 10:1-12)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

"Urim and Thummim" was a biblical term which members adopted for seeing or revelatory instruments about three years after the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1833. When the revelations were republished, its use had become common among the Saints. The authors impose their own fundamentalist expectations on the Saints—Joseph and others made no secret that the revelations were edited, expanded, and clarified with reprintings.



Ensign (Jan. 2013): "He...referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim...He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed"

Gerrit Dirkmaat (Church History Department - January 2013 Ensign):

Those who believed that Joseph Smith’s revelations contained the voice of the Lord speaking to them also accepted the miraculous ways in which the revelations were received. Some of the Prophet Joseph’s earliest revelations came through the same means by which he translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates. In the stone box containing the gold plates, Joseph found what Book of Mormon prophets referred to as “interpreters,” or a “stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light” (Alma 37:23–24). He described the instrument as “spectacles” and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim (see Exodus 28:30).2

He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called “seer stones” because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones. For example, shortly after Oliver Cowdery came to serve as a scribe for Joseph Smith as he translated the plates, Oliver and Joseph debated the meaning of a biblical passage and sought an answer through revelation. Joseph explained: “A difference of opinion arising between us about the account of John the Apostle … whether he died, or whether he continued; we mutually agreed to settle it by the Urim and Thummim.”3 In response, Joseph Smith received the revelation now known as section 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which informed them that Jesus had told the Apostle John, “Thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory” (D&C 7:3).

Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument. One of his scribes explained that process: “The scribe seats himself at a desk or table, with pen, ink, and paper. The subject of inquiry being understood, the Prophet and Revelator inquires of God. He spiritually sees, hears, and feels, and then speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”[10]


W.W. Phelps (1833): "through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles—(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)"

W.W. Phelps wrote the following in the January 1833 edition of The Evening and The Morning Star:

The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.-It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim) and while it unfolds the history of the first inhabitants that settled this continent, it, at the same time, brings a oneness to scripture, like the days of the apostles; and opens and explains the prophecies, that a child may understand the meaning of many of them; and shows how the Lord will gather his saints, even the children of Israel, that have been scattered over the face of the earth, more than two thousand years, in these last days, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion. [11]

It appears that the seer stone was also referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" after 1833, indicating that the name could be assigned to any device that was used for the purpose of translation.[12]


Response to claim: 59 - The United Order was simply a form of Communism

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The United Order was simply a form of Communism.

(Author's sources: Book of Commandments 44; DC 42:24-36)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The authors hope to cast the United Order in the same mold as an economic system run by a totalitarian regime.



Question: Was the United Order simply a form of communism?

The starting point of modern socialism was well after Joseph Smith's implementation of the United Order

Some have asserted that the United Order was simply a form of "communism." Marion G. Romney notes that, "The 'Communist Manifesto' drafted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the Communist League in 1848 is generally regarded as the starting point of modern socialism." [13] However, Joseph Smith's implementation of the United Order predated Marx and Engels, so it would be impossible for him to have drawn upon their ideas.

There are some similarities, but also some important differences between the United Order and Marxist Communism

Similarities between communism and the United Order:

  • Both the United Order and communism deal with production and distribution of goods.
  • Both the United Order and communism aim to promote the well-being of men by eliminating their economic inequalities.
  • Both the United Order and communism envision the elimination of the selfish motives in our private capitalistic industrial system.

Differences between the United Order and Marxist Communism include:

  • The United Order is based upon "belief in God and acceptance of him as Lord of the earth and the author of the United Order," while socialism is wholly materialistic, and "is founded in the wisdom of men and not of God." [13]
  • The United Order is "implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men, evidenced by a consecration of all their property to the Church of God," while "socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state." [13]
  • The United Order is based upon the principle that "that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property" (D&C 134:2), while communism requires that the government control all property.

Elder Marion G. Romney summarized this as: "Socialism takes: United Order gives. That is the spirit of socialism: We're going to take. The spirit of the United Order is: We're going to give." [13]

What happened if one did not choose to participate in the United Order?

Elder Marion G. Romney notes,

One time the Prophet Joseph Smith asked a question by the brethren about the inventories they were taking. His answer was to the effect, "You don't need to be concerned about the inventories. Unless a man is willing to consecrate everything he has, he doesn't come into the United Order." (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 7, pp. 412-13.) [13]


Response to claim: 59 - The United Order was claimed to have actually been Sidney Rigdon's idea

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The United Order was claimed to have actually been Sidney Rigdon's idea.

(Author's sources: Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 108. ( Index of claims ))

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The authors need to produce actual evidence, instead of simply repeating Fawn Brodies opinion. Did Sidney ever claim it was his idea, even when estranged from Joseph?



Response to claim: 62 - a section on marriage that was removed from the D&C

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that "thousands of words which were added, deleted or changed in the revelations," including a section on marriage that was removed from the D&C.

(Author's sources: 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The section on marriage was replaced with Section 132 after the practice of plural marriage was made public.



Question: Why did the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants include a statement of marriage that denied the practice of polygamy at a time when some were actually practicing it?

Polygamy was not being taught to the general Church membership at that time

The Article on Marriage was printed in the 1835 D&C as section 101 and in the 1844 D&C as section 109. The portion of the Article on Marriage relevant to polygamy states:

Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. [14]

This was true—the Church membership generally was not being taught plural marriage, and were not living it at that time.

The statement itself was not changed between the 1835 and 1844 editions of the D&C

In fact, the statement remained in the D&C until the 1876 edition, even though plural marriage had been taught to specific individuals since at least 1831, practiced in secret since 1836, and practiced openly since 1852. The matter of not removing it in 1852 was simply due to the fact that a new edition of the D&C was not published until 1876.

The available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith supported its publication

While some have suggested that the article was published against Joseph's wishes or without his knowledge, the available evidence suggests that he supported its publication. It was likely included to counter the perception that the Mormon's practice of communal property (the "law of consecration") included a community of wives.

The statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith - it was written by Oliver Cowdery

This statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith—it was written by Oliver Cowdery and introduced to a conference of the priesthood at Kirtland on 17 August 1835. Cowdery also wrote a statement of belief on government that has been retained in our current edition of the D&C as section 134. Both were sustained at the conference and included in the 1835 D&C, which was already at the press and ready to be published. Joseph Smith was preaching in Michigan at the time Oliver and W.W. Phelps introduced these two articles to the conference; it is not known if he approved of their addition to the D&C at the time, although he did retain them in the 1844 Nauvoo edition, which argues that he was not opposed to them. (Phelps read the article on marriage, while Cowdery read the one on government.) [15]

Some have suggested that the manner in which the conference was called suggests that Joseph was not the instigator of it, since it seems to have been done quite quickly, with relatively few high church leaders in attendance:

The General Assembly, which may have been announced on only twenty-four hours' notice, was held Monday, August 17[, 1835]. Its spur-of-the-moment nature is demonstrated by observing that a puzzling majority of Church leaders were absent. Missing from the meeting were all of the Twelve Apostles, eight of the twelve Kirtland High Council members nine of the twelve Missouri High Council members, three of the seven Presidents of the Quorum of Seventy, Presiding Bishop Partridge, and...two of the three members of the First Presidency. [16]

However, there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, "if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac." [17]


Response to claim: 62 - The Lectures on Faith were removed from the D&C

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Lectures on Faith were removed from the D&C.

(Author's sources: 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The Lectures on Faith were never approved by the body of the Church, and they were eventually removed from the Doctrine and Covenants.



Question: What are the Lectures on Faith?

The Lectures were published in 1835 as the Doctrine portion of The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints

The Lectures on Faith are seven lessons on theology delivered by the presiding officers of the Church to the School of the Elders at Kirtland, Ohio, in late 1834. The lectures are organized in the form of a catechism, with each lecture starting with instructions on doctrine, and the first five lectures concluding with a question-and-answer section to check class participants for understanding. Scholarship seems to indicate that the lectures were mostly written by Sidney Rigdon with some oversight of Joseph Smith. [18]

The Lectures were the "doctrine" portion of the Doctrine and Covenants

The Lectures were included as the "doctrine" portion of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (the revelations comprised the "covenants" portion). The Lectures were suggested to be added to this version of the D&C by a committee appointed on September 24, 1834 by a general assembly of the church to arrange the doctrines and revelations of the church into a single volume. That committee consisted of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. The general body of the church accepted the committee's compilation on August 17, 1835 as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote." [19]

While the Lectures on Faith were at one time included in the Doctrine and Covenants, they were subsequently removed from the 1921 edition (along with other items; for more information see D&C Textual Changes) that were not considered official revelation and binding doctrine by the church.


Question: Who wrote the Lectures on Faith?

The authorship of the Lectures on Faith is not entirely known

Recent authorship studies ascribe the wording of the lectures "mainly to Sidney Rigdon," with Joseph Smith substantially involved, and others perhaps having some influence. Willard Richards writes in his history that Joseph was "busily engaged" in November in making "preparations for the School for the Elders, wherein they might be more perfectly instructed in the great things of God."[20] Furthermore, in January 1835 Joseph was engaged in "preparing the lectures on theology for publication."[21]


Question: Why were the Lectures on Faith removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921?

The Church said that they were removed because they had never been presented to or accepted by the membership as being anything other than theological lectures or lessons

The Church removed the Lectures from the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1921 edition with an explanation that the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons".[22] This is in contrast to the remaining pages of the original Doctrine and Covenants which are officially recognized as divine revelation given specifically to the church.

Joseph Fielding Smith said the following concerning their removal:

a) They were not received as revelations by the prophet Joseph Smith.
b) They are instructions relative to the general subject of faith. They are explanations of this principle but not doctrine.
c) They are not complete as to their teachings regarding the Godhead. More complete instructions on the point of doctrine are given in section 130 of the 1876 and all subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.
d) It was thought by Elder James E. Talmage, chairman, and other members of the committee who were responsible for their omission that to avoid confusion and contention on this vital point of belief, it would be better not to have them bound in the same volume as the commandments or revelations which make up the Doctrine and Covenants.[23]


Question: Were the Lectures on Faith revelations?

The Lectures were not revelations

Even hostile readers in 1838 understood that there was a distinct difference between the Lectures and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants:

The first part [of the D&C] contains seven lectures on Faith, but the second is of most importance, containing what are termed, “Covenants and Commandments of the Lord, to his servants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.” This part includes one hundred and two sections, ninety-seven of which are occupied by as many professed revelations.[24]

Bruce R. McConkie wrote regarding the lectures, "They were not themselves classed as revelations, but in them is to be found some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character, perfections, and attributes of God; on faith, miracles, and sacrifice. They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars."[25] The 1990 republication of the Lectures signals the desire of some LDS scholars to stimulate interest in their historical and doctrinal significance for the Church.


Question: Are the Lectures on Faith not made available through Latter-day Saint sources?

The Lectures on Faith are available through Deseret Book

The Lectures on Faith are available through Church-owned Deseret Book in hardcover, softcover, illustrated and audio formats. They are also available in English and Spanish. (See: Deseret Book: Lectures on Faith). If there is an effort by the Church to hide or suppress them in any way, then they are not hiding them very well.


Response to claim: 62 - It is claimed that few LDS writers will "admit" to changes made in the D&C

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that few LDS writers will "admit" to changes made in the D&C.

(Author's sources: *Authors' opinion.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

It is no surprise that there is no source for this claim—it is just unproven opinion. As noted for p. 43 above, a BYU PhD student had examined every change to the D&C in 1974, well before the Tanners wrote.



Question: Were the changes to the revelations hidden from the Church members?

Oliver clearly understood that some changes were corrections, and some were additions given by revelation which were made prior to publication

One aspect of the prophet's mission includes the editing and modification of revelation prior to publication. There is plenty of evidence that the Church has done nothing to hide the fact that changes were made.

This information has been available since the first publication of the revelations which later became the Doctrine and Covenants. The Saints of Joseph Smith's day had read the revelations in their initial form, many having been published in Church newspapers. Oliver Cowdery wrote, upon the publication of the revised revelations:

On the revelations we merely say, that we were not a little surprised to find the previous print so different from the original. We had given them a careful comparison, assisted by individuals whose known integrity and ability is uncensurable. Thus saying we cast no reflections upon those who were entrusted with the responsibility of publishing them in Missouri, as our own labors were included in that important service to the church, and it was our unceasing endeavor to have them correspond with the copy furnished us. We believe they are now correct. If not in every word, at least in principle. For the special good of the church we have also added a few items from other revelations. [26]

Oliver clearly understood that some changes were corrections, and some were additions given by revelation which were made prior to publication.

Orson Pratt noted that "line was added upon line to several of the sections and paragraphs about to be published"

In 1854, Orson Pratt discussed changes:

We often had access to the manuscripts when boarding with the Prophet; and it was our delight to read them over and over again, before they were printed. And so highly were they esteemed by us, that we committed some to memory; and a few we copied for the purpose of reference in our absence on missions; and also to read them to the saints for their edification. These copies are still in our possession. When at length the time arrived to print the manuscripts, it was thought best not to publish them all, on account of our enemies, who were seeking every means to destroy the Prophet and the Church…. It was concluded, through the suggestions of the Spirit, that by altering the real names given in the manuscripts, and substituting fictitious ones in their stead, they might thus safely appear in print without endangering the welfare of the individuals whose real names were contained therein….

It may be asked, had the Prophet a right to alter names given by revelation and substitute fictitious ones in their stead? We reply, that it is only the printed edition that contains the substituted names, while the original manuscripts, that are safely preserved in the hands of the church, contain the names as they were originally given. Moreover, the substitution of fictitious names for persons and places does not alter or destroy the sense or ideas contained in the revelations. But what the Prophet did in relation to this thing, was not of himself; he was dictated by the Holy Ghost to make these substitutions…. And by revelation line was added upon line to several of the sections and paragraphs about to be published.

But some may inquire, are not the Almighty’s revelations perfect when they are first given? And if so, where was the propriety of the Lord’s adding any thing to them, when they were already perfect? We reply that every word of God is perfect; but He does not reveal all things at once, but adds ‘line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little,’ revealing as the people are able to bear, or as circumstances require…. The Lord, therefore, adds to His own revelations whenever he thinks proper.[27]

"The Prophet was inspired in several instances to write additional sentences and paragraphs to the earlier revelations"

In 1857, the Millennial Star noted:

Joseph, the Prophet, in selecting the revelations from the Manuscripts, and arranging them for publication, did not arrange them according to the order of the date in which they were given, neither did he think it necessary to publish them all in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, but left them to be published more fully in his History. Hence, paragraphs taken from revelations of a later date, are, in a few instances, incorporated with those of an earlier date. Indeed, at the time of compilation, the Prophet was inspired in several instances to write additional sentences and paragraphs to the earlier revelations. In this manner the Lord did truly give ‘line upon line, here a little and there a little,’ the same as He did to a revelation that Jeremiah received, which, after being burned by the wicked king of Israel, the Lord revealed over again with great numbers of additional words (See Jeremiah 36:32) [28]


Response to claim: 63 - The name "Michael" was deleted from Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom because Adam is Michael

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The name "Michael" was deleted from Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom because Adam is Michael.

(Author's sources:
  • Joseph Smith's Diary, January 21, 1836, p.136; original in LDS historical department (reference with Michael)
  • Deseret News, Church Section, April 3, 1976 (reference without Michael))

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is evidence that this was a scribal error.



Question: Why was the name "Michael" deleted from Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom?

Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom mentions both Adam and Michael, even though Adam is Michael

Joseph's diary entry for January 21, 1836 mentions both Adam and Michael, even though Adam is Michael:

heads, and attend to all duties that pertain to that office. I then took the seat, and father annoint[ed] my head, and sealed upon me the blessings, of Moses, to lead Israel in the latter days, even as moses led him in days of old, also the blessings of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. all of the presidency laid their hands upon me and pronounced upon my head many prophesies, and blessings, many of which I shall not notice at this time, but as Paul said, so say I, let us come to vissions and revelations, The heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial Kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell, I saw the transcendant beauty of the gate that enters, through which the heirs of that Kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire, also the blasing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son, I saw the beautiful streets of that Kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold I saw father Adam, and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother, my brother Alvin that has long since slept, and marvled how it was that he had obtained this an inheritance in that Kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life, before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time and had not been baptised for the remission of sins Thus said came the voice of the Lord unto me saying all who have

The name "Michael" was deleted from the original text of Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom in which both Adam and Michael were mentioned

The name "Michael" was deleted from Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom. Critics of the Church claim that this was done because Adam is Michael, and it would not be possible to have both Adam and Michael in the same vision. It is claimed that the Church was trying to hide a "slip up" by Joseph Smith, who had identified Adam as Michael on multiple occasions in the past.

And Michael and my father in vision of the celestial kingdom.jpg

Warren Parrish, Joseph's scribe, appears to have recorded a dittography based upon what he heard Joseph say

Joseph tended to dictate his writings and even personal letters. Despite being in his "journal," the text is not something he produced himself, but something that a new scribe and member recorded. Wikipedia notes that "Dittography is the accidental, erroneous act of repeating a letter, word, phrase or combination of letters by a scribe or copyist."[29]

Matthew Brown noted that the original text of this revelation may help explain what happened:

“[Warren] Parrish’s transcription of [Joseph Smith’s] vision [in Joseph Smith’s journal dated 21 January 1836] seems to differentiate Adam and the archangel Michael as two separate individuals. Yet [Joseph Smith] identified Michael as Adam at least a year earlier and made the same identification four years later (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to John Whitmer, [Liberty, MO], 1 January 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 15; Revelation, ca. August 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 50:2, 1835 ed. [D&C 27:11]; Richards, “Pocket Companion,” 74–75; Robert B. Thompson, sermon notes, 5 October 1840, [Joseph Smith] Collection, [Church History Library])” (Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839 [Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2008], 167–68, n. 319). The text recorded by Warren Parrish may provide a clue about its incorrect content. It reads: “I saw father Adam, and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother, my brother Alvin” (ibid., 167–68). The “Mi” of “Michael” and the word “my” that follows almost immediately after it have the exact same sound. The structures within the sentence are also identical (“and Mi . . . and my”). It seems, therefore, that Warren Parrish (a relatively recent convert [20 May 1833] and newly-assigned scribe for the Prophet [29 October 1835]) may have recorded a modified dittography based upon what he heard Joseph Smith say.

The dittography in this case would be the repeated vocal phrase "and my...and my"

When spoken to a scribe, the phrase "and my...and my" may have resulted in the first instance being interpreted by the scribe as "and Michael".

Notes

  1. Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," Ensign (May 1974), 93. off-site; also in Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," in Conference Report (April 1974), 137.
  2. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:173, note. note Volume 1 link
  3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:170.
  4. Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," Ensign (May 1974), 93. off-site; also in Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," in Conference Report (April 1974), 137.
  5. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:173, note. note Volume 1 link
  6. Brigham Young, "The Kingdom Of God," (8 July 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:314.
  7. Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site
  8. John A. Widtsoe, edited and arranged with foreword by G. Homer Durham, Message of the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1969), 4–9.
  9. Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site
  10. Gerrit Dirkmaat (Church History Department), "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God," Ensign, January 2013. (emphasis added) off-site
  11. W.W. Phelps, "The Book of Mormon," The Evening and The Morning Star 1:58 .
  12. Stephen D. Ricks, The Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, Featured Papers, Maxwell Institute, Provo UT. off-site
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Marion G. Romney, "Socialism and the United Order Compared," Conference Report, April 1966. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "mgromney" defined multiple times with different content
  14. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, Section 101.
  15. History of the Church, 2:246–247. Volume 2 link
  16. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 154.
  17. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 173, see pp. 171–1731 for full details.
  18. See Larry E. Dahl, "Lectures on Faith," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:818–821.
  19. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:243–246. Volume 2 link
  20. http://ldsfaq.byu.edu/emmain.asp?number=219
  21. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:169–170. Volume 2 link
  22. Doctrine and Covenants, 1921 edition's introduction.
  23. As told to John William Fitzgerald, A Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 344.
  24. La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 2 (13 January 1838): 6. off-site
  25. Bruce R. McConkie, "Lectures on Faith," in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 439. GL direct link
  26. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints, 1805-1890, Volume 1, p. 580-81.
  27. Orson Pratt, “Explanation of Substituted Names in the Covenants,” The Seer 2.3 (March 1854): 227-9.
  28. ?, "Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchisedek Priesthoods," Millennial Star 19 no. 17 (25 April 1857), 260. (Scripture references modernized for wiki linkage.)
  29. "Dittography," Wikipedia (accessed 11/2/2014).