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Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Priesthood Restoration Concerns & Questions
Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Priesthood Restoration Concerns & Questions"
|Testimony & Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions"||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
|Witnesses Concerns & Questions|
Response to section "Priesthood Restoration Concerns & Questions"Summary: The author states, "Like the First Vision story, none of the members of the Church or Joseph Smith’s family had ever heard prior to 1834 about a priesthood restoration from John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John. Although the priesthood is now taught to have been restored in 1829, Joseph and Oliver made no such claim until 1834. Why did it take five years for Joseph or Oliver to tell members of the Church about the priesthood?"
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: "'The late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication.' – LDS Historian Richard Bushman" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "none of the members of the Church or Joseph Smith’s family had ever heard prior to 1834 about a priesthood restoration from John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "Why did it take five years for Joseph or Oliver to tell members of the Church about the priesthood?" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did not teach anyone or record anything prior to 1834 that men ordained to offices in the Church were receiving 'priesthood authority'" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "adding verses about the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John as if those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations" (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "David Whitmer...'I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic Priesthood until the year 1834..." (Source: Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony, April 2013)
- Response to claim: "If Joseph was already an elder and apostle, what was the necessity of being ordained again?" (Source: Debunking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon), July 2014)
Response to claim: "'The late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication.' – LDS Historian Richard Bushman"
The author quotes Richard Bushman: "'The late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication.' – LDS Historian Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 75"
The author only includes part of Richard Bushman's quote, so that it makes it appear that Bushman is suggesting the Joseph may have fabricated these accounts. This is incorrect. Bushman goes on to make his point: "Did Joseph add the stories of angels to embellish his early history and make himself more of a visionary? If so, he made little of the occurrence. Cowdery was the first to recount the story of John’s appearance, not Joseph himself." 
- The author misrepresents Richard Bushman's comment by removing it from its context, thereby making it appear that he was saying something that he never intended to.
- The author then claims that Bushman is in agreement with his own position, which is that Joseph fabricated these accounts.
Response to claim: "none of the members of the Church or Joseph Smith’s family had ever heard prior to 1834 about a priesthood restoration from John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John"
Like the First Vision story, none of the members of the Church or Joseph Smith’s family had ever heard prior to 1834 about a priesthood restoration from John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseRecords indicate that the visit of Peter, James and John for the purpose of ordination was being discussed in 1830.
Jump to Detail:
- Question: What criticisms are put forth regarding the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood?
- Question: In what manner was the Aaronic Priesthood restored?
- Question: In what manner was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?
- Question: What is the date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood?
- Question: Where was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?
The author has no idea whatsoever Joseph may have told his family about the priesthood restoration, becasue there are no historical documents to support his position one way or the other.
Question: What criticisms are put forth regarding the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood?
Historical documents do not give an exact date for the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood
One critic of the Church claims that "Although the priesthood is now taught to have been restored in 1829, Joseph and Oliver made no such claim until 1834."  Common questions asked include the following:
- Was the restoration of the priesthood was "back dated" later by Joseph Smith to justify a desire to dominate the Church?
- Does anyone know "when or how" Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek priesthood?
- Why did several years pass before Oliver talked about the priesthood restoration?
If Joseph was making the story up, why not just pick a date and stick to it? The uncertainty of dates is typical of real world events; any one clever enough to "fake" the restoration and organization of the Church could certainly pick a date off the top of his head. Who could argue with him?
The approximate time of the Melchizedek priesthood' restoration can be plausibly narrowed down
When all the circumstantial evidence is studied, the approximate time of the Melchizedek priesthood' restoration can be plausibly narrowed down. Although historical documents do not give an exact date for the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood we can pinpoint its occurrence to a 17 day window between the 15 and 31 of May, 1829. The window that is known is small enough to preclude a later fabrication of events by the Prophet to "increase his authority."
There are non-Mormon accounts that indicate that Joseph and Oliver had received visits from apostles and angels
Some have claimed that Joseph only began to mention apostolic ordination to the priesthood several years after the Church's organization. Contrary to this claim, there are clear references to Joseph Smith stating he had seen Jesus Christ. Joseph’s ‘conversations’ with the Apostles could be a reference to having seen, spoken to, and been ordained to the Priesthood by the early Apostles Peter, James, and John. Having received that Priesthood Joseph Smith was now qualified to perform healings, and other ‘miracles’.
Question: In what manner was the Aaronic Priesthood restored?
Joseph Smith: "we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized"
Joseph learned from Moroni in 1823 that “when [the golden plates] are interpreted the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands.” Two years later the first part of that pronouncement occurred when John the Baptist visited Joseph and Oliver:
He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter...The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us...It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized.
We know that the Melchizedek priesthood therefore had not yet been given and must be given either later that day or sometime following that day.
Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were told to re-ordain each other to the priesthood after being baptized. This was to follow proper rules of being a member before receiving the priesthood, but in their case they couldn't become members until having the priesthood to baptize each other.
Question: In what manner was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?
The ordination to the office of Elder via the higher priesthood could not occur until the church had been established
Similar to this origination complication of baptism and membership, the ordination to the office of Elder via the higher priesthood could not occur until the church had been established. After the church was officially established we have the following evidences that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had already received the higher priesthood:
- Aug 1830, the Lord spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith of “Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them.” D&C 27:12
- Apr 1830, “And to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this church, and ordained under his hand.” D&C 20:2-3
- “Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery sought after this higher authority, and the Lord gave it to them, before the rise of this Church, sending to them Peter, James and John. What for? To bestow upon them the Apostleship.” -Elder Parley P. Pratt 
- Hiram Page, a son-in-law of Peter Whitmer Sr., and one who was present on the day of the Church’s 6 April 1830 organization, later confirmed that “Peter, James and John” had come and bestowed the Holy Priesthood “before the 6th of April 1830.” 
- “I know that Joseph received his Apostleship from Peter, James, and John, before a revelation on the subject was printed, and he never had a right to organize a Church before he was an Apostle.” -Brigham Young 
Question: What is the date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood?
There is a narrow May 15 to 30, 1829 ordination window
Knowing that the prophet already had the Melchizedek priesthood prior to the organization of the church we can look at the following clues of the May 15 to 30, 1829 ordination window in order of progressively narrowed parameters:
- Year 1829: There is a manuscript in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting recording part of D&C 18: saying, “Written in the year of our Lord & Saviour 1829.” 
- June 1829: In D&C 18:9 we read “And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.”
- Before June 14, 1829: Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to Hyrum Smith. The letter has some wording that quotes and refers to section 18 in the D&C. 
- Before June 1, 1829:
- Joseph Smith said that he, Emma, Oliver and David Whitmer traveled to the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. “In the beginning of the month of June.” 
- David Whitmer is quoted as saying “The translation at my father’s farm, Fayette Township, Seneca County, New York occupied about one month, that is from June 1, to July 1, 1829.”  If those dates are exact then the Prophet was in New York during the entire month of June.
- Orson Pratt asked David Whitmer, “Can you tell the date of the bestowal of the Apostleship upon Joseph, by Peter, James and John?” To which he replied: “I do not know, Joseph never told me.” From this we can tell that the visitation either:
- Happened during the traveling when Joseph and Oliver were away from David and did not tell him about the occurrence (their trusted friend with whom they shared many other events).
- Happened at another time than their travel from Harmony to Fayette.
Question: Where was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?
The bestowal of the Melchizedek priesthood occurred in Harmony, but the ordination to offices was deferred until later
The bestowal of the Melchizedek priesthood occurred in Harmony, Pennsylvania.  The time of travel between Harmony, PA and the Whitmer farm would have been three days. The likelihood of the men traveling back to Harmony at the same time as they did the following is near impossible:
- Finished the translation
- Secured the copyright on June 11
- Oliver's letter to Hyrum on June 14
- Joseph's details of how busy they were during this time period at the farm 
As shown above, after receiving the priesthood they were not yet allowed to ordain each other to the offices within that priesthood. They were told to “defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our proceeding to ordain each other.” 
Response to claim: "Why did it take five years for Joseph or Oliver to tell members of the Church about the priesthood?"
Although the priesthood is now taught to have been restored in 1829, Joseph and Oliver made no such claim until 1834. Why did it take five years for Joseph or Oliver to tell members of the Church about the priesthood?
The author wishes to persuade the reader that Joseph and Oliver made up the story several years after the fact.
Jump to Detail:
- Question: Why did several years pass before Oliver talked about the priesthood restoration?
- Christensen: "Notice again the shift from an original argument against the priesthood restoration based on 'no such claim until 1834' to a much softer complaint about the general membership being 'unfamiliar with the now official story.'"
Question: Why did several years pass before Oliver Cowdery talked about the priesthood restoration?
We don't know when Oliver first mentioned the priesthood restoration to anyone - we only know when he first put it in print
It should first be noted that many critics ignore versus in the Book of Mormon that refer explicitly to the High Priesthood of Melchizedek such as Alma 13:18. Alma was "confined [to the] high priesthood of the holy order of God..." (Alma 4:20). It is therefore unlikely that these accounts are a pure fabrication since we know that these versus and versus in Mosiah would prompt Joseph and Oliver to enquire about the proper mode of baptism under this authority. We don't know when Oliver first mentioned the priesthood restoration to anyone - we only know when he first put it in print. But consider this: If Oliver was covering up a fraud on the part of Joseph Smith when he talked of receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, then why didn't he expose the fraud after he fell into disagreement with Joseph Smith and was excommunicated from the Church? Why, in fact, did Oliver continue to insist that the events related to the restoration of the Priesthood actually happened?
The implication is that Oliver was dishonest, yet his associates during the time that he was a lawyer after leaving the Church viewed his character as "irreproachable". Harvey Gibson, a political opponent of Oliver's, and another lawyer (whose statue now stands in front of the Seneca County courthouse) wrote:
Cowdery was an able lawyer and [an] agreeable, irreproachable gentleman. 
Webster's 1828 dictionary defines "irreproachable" as "That cannot be justly reproached; free from blame; upright; innocent. An irreproachable life is the highest honor of a rational being." 
Oliver wrote the following to Phineas Young two years after Joseph's death, well after he had left the Church:
I have cherished a hope, and that one of my fondest, that I might leave such a character, as those who might believe in my testimony, after I should be called hence, might do so, not only for the sake of the truth, but might not blush for the private character of the man who bore that testimony. I have been sensitive on this subject, I admit; but I ought to be so—you would be, under the circumstances, had you stood in the presence of John, with our departed Brother Joseph, to receive the Lesser Priesthood—and in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater, and looked down through time, and witnessed the effects these two must produce,—you would feel what you have never felt, were wicked men conspiring to lessen the effects of your testimony on man, after you should have gone to your long sought rest. 
Christensen: "Notice again the shift from an original argument against the priesthood restoration based on 'no such claim until 1834' to a much softer complaint about the general membership being 'unfamiliar with the now official story.'"
In his original Letter, Runnells says, “Although the priesthood is now taught to have been restored in 1829, Joseph and Oliver made no such claim until 1834.” He uncritically repeats [Grant] Palmer’s claims about an 1834 date and leaves this crucially important information from 1832 off the table. When FairMormon points out the 1832 account, he labors to devalue the significance of this passage, and of other earlier sources that FairMormon mentions: “FAIR’s above answer actually confirms my point that the general Church membership was unfamiliar with the now official story of the Priesthood restoration until 1834. The best FAIR can do after scouring through everything for their rebuttal is this?”
Notice again the shift from an original argument against the priesthood restoration based on “no such claim until 1834” to a much softer complaint about the general membership being “unfamiliar with the now official story.”
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did not teach anyone or record anything prior to 1834 that men ordained to offices in the Church were receiving 'priesthood authority'
The newspaper Painsesville Telegraph claimed in 1830 that Oliver Cowdery was teaching "by this authority" after claiming to have "conversed with angels." The newspaper Palmyra Reflector claimed in 1831 that Cowdery said that he had "frequent interviews with angels."
Jump to Detail:
- Painesville Telegraph (1830): "Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name. By this authority, they proclaim to the world"
- Painesville Telegraph (1830): "The name of the person here, who pretends to have a divine mission, and to have seen and conversed with Angels, is Cowdray"
- The Palmyra Reflector (1831): "Jo Smith had now received a commission from God...Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels"
- Reverend Taggart (1833): "Joe Smith...told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform miracles"
Painesville Telegraph, 7 December 1830:
Mr. Oliver Cowdry has his commission directly from the God of Heaven, and that he has credentials, written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ, with whom he has personally conversed, and as such, said Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name. By this authority, they proclaim to the world, that all who do not believe their testimony, and be baptized by them for the remission of sins . . . must be forever miserable.
Painesville Telegraph (1830): "The name of the person here, who pretends to have a divine mission, and to have seen and conversed with Angels, is Cowdray"
Painesville Telegraph, 16 November 1830:
About Two weeks since some persons came along here with the book, one of whom pretends to have seen Angels, and assisted in translating the plates. He proclaims the destruction upon the world within a few years,--holds forth that the ordinances of the gospel, have not been regularly administered since the days of the Apostles, till the said Smith and himself commenced the work . . . . The name of the person here, who pretends to have a divine mission, and to have seen and conversed with Angels, is Cowdray.”
The Palmyra Reflector (1831): "Jo Smith had now received a commission from God...Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels"
The Palmyra Reflector, February 14, 1831:
They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years,--that no one had been authorized to preach &c. for that period—that Jo Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose . . . . Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally—Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels.
Reverend Taggart (1833): "Joe Smith...told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform miracles"
Reverend Richmond Taggart to Reverend Jonathan Goings, Cleveland, Ohio, March 2, 1833:
The following Curious occurrence occurred last week in Newburg about 6 miles from this Place [Cleveland, Ohio]. Joe Smith the great Mormonosity was there and held forth, and among other things he told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform miracles.
Response to claim: "Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants"
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants...
This is a fact which has been discussed at length in Church publications such as the Ensign. Sidney Rigdon also helped edit the revelations.
Jump to Detail:
- 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"
- Question: Who made the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?
- Question: What are the reasons for the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?
- Question: Were the changes to the revelations hidden from the Church members?
- Question: How do Mormons understand prophetic revelation?
- Question: What changes were made to the Doctrine and Covenants?
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"
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...
Question: Who made the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?
The First Presidency of the Church made the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants
The Saints have never believed in inerrant prophets or inerrant scripture. The editing and modification of the revelations was never a secret; it was well known to the Church of Joseph's day, and it has been discussed repeatedly in modern Church publications, as well as extensive studies in Masters' and PhD theses at BYU.
If Joseph could receive the Doctrine and Covenants by revelation, then he could also receive revelation to improve, modify, revise, and expand his revelatory product. The question remains the same—was Joseph Smith a prophet? If he was, then his action is completely legitimate. If he was not, then it makes little difference whether his pretended revelations were altered or not.
Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote:
First Presidency members were assigned to compile "the items of the doctrine" of the Church from the standard works, including "the revelations which have been given to the Church up to this date or shall be, until such arrangement is made" (Kirtland High Council Minute Book, 24 September 1834; also cited in History of the Church, 2:165. Volume 2 link). This resolution might suggest the correction of former wording through revelation. [The revised D&C was] issued in August 1835 with a 17 February 1835 preface signed by the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, the revision committee. 
Thus, the First Presidency of the time supervised the revisions.
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. 
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. 
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.
"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) 
Question: How do Mormons understand prophetic revelation?
First, who is God?
Mormons understand God to be perfect and omnipresent. Revelation is the tool that he has given us to describe him best, his nature, and his law, even though at times his purposes and ways of working with his children can be inscrutable. To Mormons, he is also literally our Father in Heaven with a body of flesh and bone. He is of the same species that we are and thus is able to communicate with us in a way that we understand. We understand him to work with us like a father—catering to our needs as he teaches us how to come closer to him. This understanding frames the way we understand all revelation.
Revelation is given in a particular historical context
No revelation occurs in a vacuum. That is, no revelation is given to a prophet without a historical context, and by the same token a particular set of needs, concerns, and pressing events on the prophet leading his people at any given time. This context is either described by the text (as with the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price) or by historical research (as it is generally in the Doctrine and Covenants). Every revelation is couched within the language of the agent receiving it which is why we have Hebrew influence in the Old Testament, Hebrew and Egyptian influence in the Book of Mormon, and Jacobean 19th century English in the Doctrine and Covenants. Since every revelation has a historical context and a particular language with which expressed (2 Nephi 31:3), it becomes expedient for us to familiarize ourselves with the culture and language in which that revelation was produced (an specific injunction for which is found in D&C 88:77-79).
Revelation is accommodated to the needs of the people living in that cultural circumstance and is couched in their language and their expression
Revelation, as stated before, must be couched within the language of the people. Expression is another issue. For instance, we learn that God is a jealous God (Ex 20:5), yet how can he be jealous and perfect? The Doctrine and Covenants tells us to strip ourselves from jealousies (D&C 67:10). This is part of how God accommodates revelation to the needs of a people living in a particular circumstance. Prophets speak "after the manner of their language."
The Doctrine and Covenants itself announces that:
Behold, 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, that they might come to understanding.DC 1:24
Thus, the Doctrine and Covenants acknowledges the weakness of the prophets through which they came, and insists that the wording is in the manner of their language, not sound bites from the downloadable encyclopedia of divine facts.
Brigham Young (who authored one of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants—DC 136:) described the process in similar terms:
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...
The laws that the Lord has given are not fully perfect, because the people could not receive them in their perfect fulness; but they can receive a little here and a little there, a little today and a little to-morrow, a little more next week, and a little more in advance of that next year, if they make a wise improvement upon every little they receive... 
And, there were even times when others besides Joseph were assigned to collaborate in writing the revelations—clear evidence that there was not "only one true" way of expressing a revelation. (See DC 124:12-16.)
Revelation is also accommodated to particular needs and immediate concerns. As such the Lord has worked through diverse means to bring about particular outcomes. This means that some things that have been revealed have only been provisional or implemented in case of contingency.
As the Lord states in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4
"Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good...".
LDS Doctrine also states that it is a spiritual gift to understand the "diversity of operations" of the Lord D&C 46:16
Along these same lines, it should be mentioned that revelation always comes at a time of common necessity and not common demand. We may demand that a particular thing bend to our political view or whim, however that is not how the Lord operates. As Alma teaches:
21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
A lot of revelation comes simply by treasuring up the words of God in our minds and having the spirit witness to us in the moment of need what to do or say
We are commanded to treasure up the words of God in our minds. He promises us that they will tell us all things we might do or say in the moment of need (see 2 Nephi 32:3 and D&C 84:85). He promises also that as we study issues out in our mind and ask for confirmation that he will give it (D&C 9:7-9)
Sometimes we are required to actively seek a revelation to receive it
As taught in the Doctrine and Covenants "And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed." (D&C 1:26) We must all be active in our search for revelation on any given matter. God does intervene frequently however. The best way to understand under what circumstances is to read the scriptures and judge the matter for ourselves.
Many times, we do not need the Lord to command us in action— especially when what we are going to do or are doing is a good thing
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
Revelation is wisdom that is largely independent of the agent receiving it
Were it not so, nothing would be "revealed" in any traditional sense and rather concocted to fit the personal agenda of the prophet. This doesn't mean that revelation is "perfect". Only that God is the one choosing the symbols that revelation attaches itself to and not the prophet.
Often revelation does require that we first study something out in our mind (D&C 9:8). As President Russell M. Nelson has recently stated
. . .I know that good inspiration is based upon good information. . .
Once we have studied an issue out in our mind, it is then up to the spirit to decide which will be the best for the future.
Obviously not all revelation functions this way as it should cut through the unknown on some level. God does give us knowledge completely out of blue to his prophets and to us personally that we need to bless ourselves and others in the moment of need. This increases our confidence that revelation really is independent of our own normal cognition and emotion.
Revelation is given to prophets "line upon line; precept upon precept"
Line upon line has two features:
- It reveals core truths over time directly to the prophet.
- It makes small addendums to a few previous revelations without threatening the core integrity of the first revelation—immediately suggesting its sometimes corrective nature—and the original revelation being an accommodation to the first people receiving it. This is perhaps what the Lord meant to express in D&C 46:15 when he states that he "[suits] his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men."
An example of this is found in Doctrine and Covenants 19. It states:
6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.
7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my glory.
[. . .]
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore
11 Eternal punishment is God's punishment.12 Endless punishment is God's punishment.
What can change through revelation?
It becomes the question of some from time to time how we can know what is subject to change and what is not subject to change. To answer this question we should look at it theologically. We should ask ourselves and think logically about what God might want to reveal line upon line and "change" in our theology.
Things that can change day to day
As it regards hamartiological matters (theology dealing with sin and the nature of sin), these things can change from day to day. The things that God sees as pleasing and not pleasing can change how they like. The Lord tells us this in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4:
4 Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.
Things that could change from day to day but don't for a reason
Ecclesiological matters (pertaining to Church organization) would logically be subject to change only when there is a particular need to change Church government. In Old Testament times there was a prophet and the immigrating people-nation of Israel, under Christ, 12 apostles carried authority to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances pertaining to that Gospel and 70 men were called to fulfill a similar call. In Modern times, the early restored Church under Joseph Smith started from something slightly different from that and progressed to what was present in the ancient Church quickly. This is because of shifting needs. Today, having a First Presidency, Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Seventies, Teachers, Priests, Deacons, Bishops, and so forth acts as an identifier for those seeking the Lord's Church. Thus, it is unlikely that such offices will change. With a growing populace of members, it is more likely that more men and women will need to be called to provide leadership in those positions without the types of positions changing.
Ordinances necessary for salvation could also change dramatically in amount necessary, type performed, presentation of such ordinances, and so forth. These don't change as they act as effective identifiers for people to find the Lord's Church.
Things that are (or should be) revealed in a linear, upward process and become more static with time.
Soteriological matters (that relating to doctrine of afterlife and salvation) come line upon line, precept upon precept, and are crystallized with each subsequent revelation regarding them. The Lord has revealed one reason why we might not know everything about the after life right now. As Doctrine and Covenants 19:7 tells us, somethings are revealed as they are to "work upon the hearts of the children of men". Thus, the degree to which we understand the afterlife is contingent upon what will motivate us to repent and what we are prepared to receive. Here we don't have room for contradiction but much more room for adding to a proposition and developing it gradually to a crystalized view of the afterife. Soteriology as it stands today in the Restored Church is fairly developed with only a few more questions such as progression between kingdoms of glory.
Eschatological matters (relating to understanding of the end of times) really don't have room for contradictory understandings. The Lord has motivation to reveal more relating to eschatology as we progress closer and closer to eschatological times so that we are prepared for them. This is the general pattern followed by the scriptures and will likely continue.
Theogony (or the doctrine of the origin of God) may develop slightly. The only real question remaining is that of the infinite regress of Gods.
Things that have no reason to be revealed more than once or to have an ongoing, crystalizing understanding
Matters pertaining to cosmology, Mariology, angelology, Christology, demonology, pneumatology, the nature of the Godhead and so forth have little room for changing in understanding since they all pertain to the study of characteristics or behavior that is independent of all other individuals.
Along with the above, missiology and epistemology in the Latter-day Saint tradition have no reason to change in understanding.
Generally speaking, we should be approaching a static ideal. We shouldn't expect revelation to change according to our own caprice. It should change when and only when it is necessary for God's children.
Some things weren't meant to be made known in this life
States the Apostle Paul: "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor 13:12).
Elder David A. Bednar compares this pattern of light to walking through fog on a sunny day (and also reveals other patterns of light), where we have just enough light to press into the darkness but not so much as to know exactly where we are going. Eventually, as the Doctrine of Covenants teaches, all will be revealed--the light will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
Revelation comes through a variety of means or methods
As expressed in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
TYPES OF REVELATION. A dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a series of personal revelations from God. These revelations may be direct manifestations from God, as in the following typical cases:
1. theophanies (seeing God face-to-face), as in the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which came at the beginning of the present dispensation (JS-H 1:15-20)
2. revealed knowledge from the Father that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:13-17; see also Spirit of Prophecy)
3. visitations of angelic persons, such as the appearance of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith (JS-H 1:30-32)
4. revelations through the Urim and Thummim, by which means Joseph Smith translated the book of mormon
5. open visions, as when Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown the kingdoms of the hereafter (see Doctrine and Covenants: Section 76)
6. physically hearing the voice of God, as is recorded in 3 Nephi 11
7. receiving the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, as in the experience of Elijah (1 Kgs. 19);
8. receiving the gifts of the spirit (D&C 46)
9. having a burning in the bosom as an indication of the will of God, as in the explanation given to Oliver Cowdery (D&C 9:8)
10. dreams (1 Ne. 8:2-32)
11. manifestations of the Light of Christ, by which all men know good from evil (Alma 12:31-32; D&C 84:46-48).Such direct manifestations of the mind and will of God are known as gifts and are contrasted with signs. Gifts always have a spiritual component, even when they have a physical aspect. Signs are physical manifestations of the power of God and are a form of revelation from God, though they may be counterfeited and misinterpreted. Signs may show that God is at work, but spiritual gifts are required to know how one should respond.
We accept the light we have received and worship according to it
We act in doctrine (D&C 101:78). We accept the light we have received now and receive whatever additional future light with gladness. If one does not act in accordance to the commandments of God, such is sin.
This view is one that is compatible with the ideas of both having men who actually receive revelation from God and the knowledge that God has given everyone agency which they can freely exercise without having to be puppets--downloading truth directly from God's encyclopedia of knowledge (D&C 101:78).
Question: What changes were made to the Doctrine and Covenants?
Changes made to the Doctrine and Covenants were 1) Grammar and spelling. 2) Added material or expansion. 3) Text removed or reworked. 4) Expressions altered
Grammar and spelling changes
Many changes involved matters of grammar, spelling, and the like. (These examples all taken from one article in the Ensign. Those interested in further examples can see the Further Reading section below. 
We have found the following errors in the commandments, as printed: fortieth chapter, tenth verse, third line, instead of ‘corruptible,’ put ‘corrupted.’ Fourteenth verse of the same chapter, fifth line, instead of ‘respector to persons,’ put ‘respector of persons.’ Twenty-first verse, second line of the same chapter, instead of ‘respector to,’ put ‘respector of.’ Fourty-four chapter, twelfth verse, last line, instead of ‘hands’ put ‘heads.’ 
Added material or expansions
Some other changes added material which had been gleaned from advancements in Church organization or later revelations, or expanded upon ideas within the original text:
|Book of Commandments||Doctrine and Covenants|
|3:2—Remember temperance, patience, humility, diligence, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you: Amen.||D&C 4:6–7—Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen. (1835 edition, 31:2.)|
|4:2—...and he has a gift to translate the book, and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.||D&C 5:4 And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished. (1835 edition, 32:1)|
|4:4— … and to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation.||D&C 5:14—And to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation, in this the beginning of the rising up and coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. (1835 edition, 32:3.)|
|6:1—And the Lord said unto me, John, my beloved, what desirest thou?||D&C 7:1—And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you. (1835 edition, 33:1.)|
|24:14—And that he gave unto the children of men commandments, that they should love and serve him the only being whom they should worship.||D&C 20:19—And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. (1835 edition, 2:4.)|
|24:32— … to administer the flesh and blood of Christ according to the scriptures.||D&C 20:40–41—And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ—
And to confirm those who are baptized into the Church, by the laying on of the hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures. (1835 edition, 2:8.)
|24:35—The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost.||D&C 20:45—The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God. (1835 edition, 2:9.)|
|44:26— … and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church, and two of the elders, such as he shall appoint and set apart for that purpose.||D&C 42:31— … and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose. (1835 edition, 13:8.)|
|44:29—And the residue shall be kept in my storehouse to administer to the poor and needy, as shall be appointed by the elders of the church and the bishop.||D&C 42:34—Therefore, the residue shall be kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy, as shall be appointed by the high council of the church, and the bishop and his council. (1835 edition, 13:10.)|
|51:6— … as is appointed to him by the bishop and elders of the church, according to the laws and commandments.||D&C 48:6— … as is appointed to him by the presidency and the bishop of the church, according to the laws and commandments. (1835 edition, 64:2.)|
|53:41—Wherefore I am in your midst; and I am the good Shepherd.||D&C 50:44—Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall. (1835 edition, 18:8.)|
|65:30—Behold now it is called today, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people.||D&C 64:23—Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people. (1835 edition, 21:5.)|
Text removed or reworked
A few revelations removed text, or altered the expression of an idea with a new phrasing or approach:
|Book of Commandments||Doctrine and Covenants|
|Chapter 4:5–6—And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and I will put down all lyings, and deceivings, and priest-crafts, and envyings, and strifes, and idolatries, and sorceries, and all manner of iniquities, and I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old. And now if this generation do harden their hearts against my word, behold I will deliver them up unto satan, for he reigneth and hath much power at this time, for he hath got great hold upon the hearts of the people of this generation: and not far from the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah, do they come at this time: and behold the sword of justice hangeth over their heads, and if they persist in the hardness of their hearts, the time cometh that it must fall upon them.||D&C 5:19—For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. (1835 edition, 32:3.)|
|4:8— … but if he will go out and bow down before me …||
D&C 5:24— … but if he will bow down before me … (1835 edition, 32:5.)
|16:13—Wherefore, I command you by my name, and by my Almighty power, that you repent.||D&C 19:15—Therefore I command you to repent. (1835 edition, 44:2.)|
|16:22—And I command you, that you preach nought but repentance; and show not these things, neither speak these things unto the world.||D&C 19:21—And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. (1835 edition, 44:2.)|
|24:11—Which book was given by inspiration and is called the book of Mormon, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels.||D&C 20:10—which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels … (1835 edition, 2:2.)|
|44:55–57—Thou shalt contract no debts with the world, except thou art commanded. And again, the elders and bishop, shall counsel together, and they shall do by the direction of the Spirit as it must needs be necessary. There shall be as many appointed as must needs be necessary to assist the bishop in obtaining places for the brethren from New York, that they may be together as much as can be, and as they are directed by the Holy Spirit; and every family shall have a place, that they may live by themselves.—And every church shall be organized in as close bodies as they can be; and this for a wise purpose;—even so. Amen.||These verses were omitted. (1835 edition, 13.)|
|Book of Commandments||Doctrine and Covenants|
|Chapter 7:3—Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God.||D&C 8:6–8—Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God. (1921 edition, 8:6–8.)|
Response to claim: "adding verses about the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John as if those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations"
adding verses about the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John as if those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations in the Book of Commandments, which they weren’t.
The editing of revelations is a fact which has been discussed at length multiple times in Church publications such as the Ensign. Sidney Rigdon also helped edit the revelations. Some copies of the Book of Commandments were saved after the press was destroyed and the revelations were passed around. Does the author think that nobody actually noticed that some revelations had been expanded?
Jump to Detail:
- Question: Was the revelation comprising the current Doctrine and Covenants 27 altered to include mention of the priesthood restoration?
- Question: Have edits to the revelations been discussed in the present day?
Question: Was the revelation comprising the current Doctrine and Covenants 27 altered to include mention of the priesthood restoration?
The revelation was originally printed in the 1833 Book of Commandments
The revelation in question is Doctrine and Covenants 27 in the modern edition. In it's original form, the revelation said the following (original spelling preserved):
Revelation, circa August 1830 [D&C 27] 28th. Commandment AD 1830 A Revelation to the Church given at Harmony susquehannh County State of Pennsylvania given to Joseph the Seer at a time that he went to purchase wine it for Sacrament & he was stoped by an Angel & he he spok to him as follows Saying Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ your Lord your God & your Redeemer whose word is quick & powerful for Behold I say unto you it mattereth not what ye <shall> eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory Remembering unto the father my Body which [was] laid down for you & my blood which was shed for you the Remission of your sins Wherefore a commandment I give unto you that ye shall not Purchase Wine neither strong drink of your enemies Wherefore ye shall partake none except it is made new among you yea in this my Fathers Kingdom which shall be built up on the earth Behold this is wisdom in me [p. 35] Wherefore marvel not for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the Vine with you on the Earth & with you all those whom my father hath given me out of the world Wherefore lift up your hearts & rejoice & Gird up your loins & be faithful untill I come even so amen 
The revelation was expanded in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants to include a description of all of the prophets who were or would be involved with the restoration, starting with Moroni
Two years after this revelation was supposed to be published in the Book of Commandments, it was substantially expanded for publication in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants as Section 50 with the addition of the names of a number of prophets who held various keys, starting with Moroni. The revelation was expanded to talk of much more than just the priesthood restoration. This is, in essence, a new revelation that was combined into the original August 1830 revelation text:
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful. For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins. Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies; Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
2 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim; And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days; And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias; Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron; And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse; And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain; And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;
3 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen. 
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) 
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. 
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: "David Whitmer...'I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic Priesthood until the year 1834..."
David Whitmer, one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had this to say about the Priesthood restoration:“I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic Priesthood until the year 1834[,] 5, or 6 – in Ohio…I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver…” – Early Mormon Documents, 5:137
The author only includes the portion of Whitmer's quote the serves his purpose.
David Whitmer gave this interview in 1885, long after he had left the Church due to his disagreements with Joseph Smith. Here's what else he said during that interview ("David Whitmer Interview with Zenas H. Gurley, 14 January 1885," Early Mormon Documents, 5:137):
in the year 1829, on our way I conversed freely with them upon this great work they were bringing about, and Oliver stated to me in Josephs presence that they had baptized each other seeking by that to fulfill the command-And after our arrival at fathers sometime in June 1829. Joseph ordained Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder, and Oliver ordained Joseph to be an Elder in the Church of Christ. <and during that year Joseph both baptized and ordained me an elder in the church of Christ.> Also, during this year the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, And we preached, baptized and ordained some as Elders, And upon the Sixth day of April 1830, six Elders together with some fifty or sixty (as near as I recollect) of the members met together to effect an organization. I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic priesthood until the year 1834[,] 5, or 6 - in Ohio, my information from Joseph and Oliver upon this matter being as I have stated, and that they were commanded so to do by revealment through Joseph. I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some. I regard that as an error, a misconception...
One of Whitmer's major disagreements with Joseph was with regard to the priesthood, yet he talks of Joseph and Oliver baptizing and ordaining one another, and of them ordaining others to the office of Elder. Here is the 1828 Webster's Dictionary definition of "ordain":
ORDA'IN, verb transitive [Latin ordino, from ordo, order.]
1. Properly, to set; to establish in a particular office or order; hence, to invest with a ministerial function or sacerdotal power; to introduce and establish or settle in the pastoral office with the customary forms and solemnities; as, to ordain a minister of the gospel. In America, men are ordained over a particular church and congregation, or as evangelists without the charge of a particular church, or as deacons in the episcopal church.
Note the words "sacerdotal power" in the definition of the word "ordain". In Spanish, the word "priesthood" is "sacerdocio." Here is the definition of the word "sacerdotal" in the 1828 dictionary:
SACERDO'TAL, adjective [Latin sacerdotalis, from sacerdos, a priest. See Sacred.]
Pertaining to priests or the priesthood; priestly; as sacerdotal dignity; sacerdotal functions or garments; sacerdotal character.
Therefore, to "ordain" someone by the 1828 definition is to "invest with a ministerial function or sacerdotal power," which is, in this case, "priesthood power."
Response to Claim: "If Joseph was already an elder and apostle, what was the necessity of being ordained again?"
If Joseph was already an elder and apostle, what was the necessity of being ordained again?" - Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p.157-158
The author only includes the portion of Bushman's comments on this to serve his purpose and hopefully stump the reader.
There is a bit more to consider besides just this snippet from Rough Stone Rolling from before and after this incident is described. Bushman adds more nuance to this conversation then is being expressed by the critic. On page 157 right after "Later accounts applied the term retroactively, but the June 1831 conference market its firstappearane in contemporary records..." he writes:
The term "authority" frequently appeared, but not "priesthood." The absence of the word to this point may have been cause of its general negative associations for radical Protestants in Joseph's time. Priesthood was associated with Roman Catholicism and the old regime of Europe. The radical religious tradition from which many Mormon converts came denounced priesthood as popish, emphasizing preaching rather than sacraments administered by priests. Universalists like Joseph Smith's grandfather linked priesthood with priestcraft and reaching the gospel for hire. In most New England churches, ministers were ordained as pastors of specific congregations and were not admitted to a priesthood at all. The idea of priesthood descending in a line of authority was Roman, not Puritan.Because priesthood was an alien concept to Yankee Christians, Joseph may have considered it prudent to say nothing about priesthood in the early years, or possible he did not understand it himself.
This isn't entirely congruent with these references to the priesthood restoration before June 1831 but may add understanding to the issue. Additionally, the Book of Mormon needs to be mentioned with its references to "Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God..." (Alma 13:18) and Alma who "...confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the word, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy." (Alma 4:20). These were some of the first verses to be translated by Oliver Cowdery as he and Joseph Smith began with Mosiah and proceeded through Moroni to then return and finish 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon. These verses became the catalysts for Joseph and Oliver to enquire of the proper mode of baptism and from there the authority to do such was apparently restored.
After quoting from the June 1831 conference, Bushman offers some suggestions for the resolving the confusion:
The confusion may indicate that the division into two priesthoods, with elders in the higher and priests and teachers in the lower, was not clear before 1831. Joseph may not have realized that elders were part of the Melchizedek Priesthood already and were being ordained to the office of high priest rather than receiving the powers of the high priesthood. Although he understood the distinction by the 1840s, he seems to have fallen back into the confusion of those early years when he wrote about the ordinations. In this case, experience may have outrun comprehension. Because he knew so little about priesthood at the beginning, Joseph could no more grasp its meaning than he comprehended the full significance of the First Vision as a teenager. Although he understood such Church offices as teacher and elder, it took time to comprehend that the powers of the priesthood were included in the authority that went with those offices. Priesthood would grow into one of the defining principles of Mormonism. Despite Protestant aversion to the term, Joseph continued to expand priesthood down to his final days in Nauvoo. The June 1831 conference ordinations hinted at the direction his theology would take. Joseph had hoped for an endowment of power at the conference. He had tolerated exorbitant behavior in hopes of receiving a pentecostal manifestation. Thought disappointed, his reaction indicated a line of thinking: that the endowment of power would come to the Saints by way of priesthood. A year later, a revelation would say that in the ordinances of the priesthood, "the power of godliness is manifest; and without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh."
Another author that responded to this argument from the CES Letter posed good questions:
1. Why would Lyman Wight think he had the authority to give Joseph Smith the priesthood? (Because he had already received that priesthood moments before under the hand of Joseph Smith. So clearly this was an ordination to an office, not the first bestowal of the priesthood.)
2. Why would Joseph Smith think he needed Lyman Wight to give him the priesthood after Joseph gave the priesthood to Lyman Wight and four other men moments earlier? (Because this was an ordination to an office in the priesthood, not the bestowal of the priesthood itself.)3. Why do Section 20 of the Doctrine & Covenants, written in 1829, and the Book of Mormon, written in 1830, describe the high priesthood in great detail if it wasn’t invented until 1831? (Because the concept of the high priesthood wasn’t a later invention as the CES Letter erroneously posits.) 
Simply put, the issue isn't nearly as clear-cut as the author thinks.
- Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 75.
- Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director. www.cesletter.com
- As quoted by Oliver Cowdery in a letter to W. W. Phelps printed in (October 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2:199..
- JS-H 1:70-72
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. (1974), 58.
- Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 16:294-295.
- Letter of Hiram Page to “Brother Wm. [William E. McLellin],” 4 March 1848, Fishing River, Missouri, Second Part, RLDS Archives, Independence, Missouri.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:137.; emphasis added.
- Oliver Cowdery, “Written in the year of our Lord & Savior 1829—A true copy of the articles of the Church of Christ,” MS 1829, LDS Church Archives.
- Letter of Oliver Cowdery to Hyrum Smith, 14 June 1829, Fayette, New York, LDS Church Archives.
- 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), 1:48–49. Volume 1 link; Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:293.
- Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881.
- D&C 128:20; 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), 1:40–41. Volume 1 link
- 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), 1:51–51. Volume 1 link
- 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), 1:60–61. Volume 1 link; emphasis added.
- Reuben Miller Journal, 21 Oct. 1848, MS 1392, LDS Church Archives.
- Statement of Oliver Cowdery to Samuel W. Richards, 13 Jan. 1849, quoted in Deseret Evening News, 22 March 1884, 2.
- "Letter from General W. H. Gibson," Seneca Advertiser (Tiffin, Ohio) 12 April 1892.
- Webster's Dictionary, off-site
- Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, 23 March 1846, Oliver Cowdery Collection, "Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith Jr." (kept by George W. Robinson), 22, LDS Church Historical Department (published in Scott H. Faulring, ed, An American Prophet's Record.— The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), emphasis in original; cited in Scott H. Faulring. “The Return of Oliver Cowdery”, FARMS Featured Paper, no date.
- Runnells, “Letter to a CES Director,” 49.
- Runnells, “Debunking FAIR’s Debunking”
- Kevin Christensen, "Eye of the Beholder, Law of the Harvest: Observations on the Inevitable Consequences of the Different Investigative Approaches of Jeremy Runnells and Jeff Lindsay," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 10:175-238 (2014).
- Painesville Telegraph, 7 December 1830
- “The Golden Bible,” Painesville Telegraph (Ohio) (16 November 1830).
- The Palmyra Reflector, February 14, 1831.
- Reverend Richmond Taggart to Reverend Jonathan Goings, Cleveland, Ohio, March 2, 1833.
- Brigham Young, "The Kingdom Of God," (8 July 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:314.
- Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman
- Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site
- History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints, 1805-1890, Volume 1, p. 580-81.
- Orson Pratt, “Explanation of Substituted Names in the Covenants,” The Seer 2.3 (March 1854): 227-9.
- ?, "Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchisedek Priesthoods," Millennial Star 19 no. 17 (25 April 1857), 260. (Scripture references modernized for wiki linkage.)
- Brigham Young, "The Kingdom Of God," (8 July 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:314.
- Nelson, Russell M. "Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives" General Conference, April 2018 
- Riddle, Chauncey R. "Revelation." Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. 2007 Online
- All examples from Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
- Joseph Smith, “Journal History 1830–1833,” Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
- Revelation Book 1, The Joseph Smith Papers off-site
- Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, The Joseph Smith Papers off-site
- 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.
- 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
- "David Whitmer Interview with Zenas H. Gurley, 14 January 1885," Early Mormon Documents, 5:137
- Jim Bennett "A Faithful Reply from a Former CES Employee" <https://canonizer.com/files/reply.pdf> (accessed 6 December 2018)