Brigham, Heber and Co. in New York, 1843.

One of the interesting things about the Manuscript History of the Church, is its blending of sources to create a narrative of events in early Mormonism. Sometimes this effect is submerged by the 1850’s historians decision to unify the text by writing in the first person, as though Joseph Smith himself had penned it. Not an acceptable practice today, it was a common technique among writers of annals and “autobiographies” at the time.

Another effect of the times was an expansion or contraction of sources. A practice perhaps based on memories of editors on occasion or more likely, given the time horizon involved, on a desire to convey some message not in the sources or only hinted at in same. During the late summer of 1843, a number of the apostles were in New York to instruct and order branches of the church. During one conference, a witness recorded a question-answer session. Below find a version of the witness, and what came out in volume 5 of the History of the Church in 1909.

Question – Answer Session from source: ? Question – Answer Session from source: HC 5.
Then several questions were asked 1st. Can any officer in any branch of the church say their word is law and should be obeyed? Then several questions were asked as follows:

1. Can any officer in any branch of the Church say that his word is law and shall be obeyed?

No! He can say that his word is law; but does that make it so? Yes, if he has the law of God and delivers it; otherwise it is not.
Is is right for a priest to be joined to a teacher to go and visit the houses of each member when their duty is set forth in the covenants? 2. Is it right for a priest to be appointed to accompany a teacher to the house of each member, when his duty is set forth in the Covenants?
Yes! any members that are officers from High Priest to Deacon may visit the church or members and be set apart for this purpose if the Church will receive it. Answer: Yes, any officer from a high priest to a deacon may visit the Church or members, and be set apart for this purpose, if the Church will receive it.
Instruction. If Elders or High Priests are on an island, and cannot get word from the Prophet or the Twelve, may get revelation concerning themselves; the Twelve may get a revelation in any part of the world concerning the building up the kingdom, as, they have to establish the kingdom in all parts of the world, so any person can ask the Lord for a witness concerning himself he can get an answer to himself, but not to lead the church. That belongs to the head of the Church
3rd. Can a Church make bye laws as expediency for themselves that are not specified in any revelation? 3. Can a branch of the Church make by-laws on the principle of expediency, which are not specified in any revelation?
Yes, if they wish they may make laws to stick their fingers in their eyes if they wish, but it is like sticking their fingers through a knot hole in the wall to see what custom will do Answer: Yes, if they wish, they may make laws to stick their fingers into their eyes; but it is like the man who habituated himself to sticking his fingers into a knot-hole in a board partition every morning, until custom compelled him to do it; for having omitted it one morning he felt so curiously at the breakfast table, that he could not eat. He then bethought himself, went and put his finger into the knot-hole and returned with a good appetite, and ate a hearty breakfast.
Elder Young said that if elders or high priests are so situated that they cannot get word from the Prophet or the Twelve Apostles, they may get a revelation concerning themselves. The Twelve may get a revelation in any part of the world concerning the building up of the kingdom, as they have
to establish it in all parts of the world. So any person can ask the Lord for a witness concerning himself, and get an answer, but not to lead the Church’ that belongs to the head of the Church.

You can see that a paragraph is translocated in the HC (History of the Church V 1909) from source ? on the left. The answer to question 3 is expanded considerably in HC. The expansion may be based on memory of the principals, who reviewed this section of history in manuscript form in c1855.

The expansion of the answer to question 1 may be an example of later consideration rather than a memory of what was actually said.

The expansion to the answer to question 3 is hilarious. The apostles had a little sense of OCD humor.

But the really fun part is source ?. The original source for the incident is the journal of Wilford Woodruff. But this is not source ?. Source ? is from an intermediate text which I found evidence for a few years ago. I found that text on Monday. And for a text geek, that’s cool.

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8 Responses to Brigham, Heber and Co. in New York, 1843.

  1. Mark Brown says:

    Yes, cool indeed.

    Thanks, WVS. This kind of stuff is fascinating to me.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Congrats on the find!

  3. The apostles had a little sense of OCD humor.

    Hilarious! Trying to tease out the development of “primary” sources is tough, and I’m glad people like you are doing it.

  4. Eric Nielson says:

    That’s great – stick your fingers in your eyes. Love it.

  5. Tod Robbins says:

    Three-Stooges-Brigham!

  6. Tod Robbins says:

    PS: Did you code the tables in this post or does WordPress let you do tables? Just curious.

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