D&C 10. Part 2. Internal Structure Verses 1-19.

You can read part 1, here.

In this part, we look at the first 19 verses of D&C 10 and compare them to the first imprint which occurs in the Book of Commandments. [We take the view here that the plates of Mormon are an authentic object. While allowing the opposite possibility is certainly done and does not effect the internal literary analysis of the Book of Mormon text particularly, it makes our enterprise here much less interesting, D&C 10 then turns into a prooftext for a lying Joseph Smith.]

Book of Commandments chap. 9 1981 LDS Doctrine and Covenants section 10
Now, behold I say unto you, that because you delivered up so many writings, which you had power to translate, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them, and you also lost your gift at the same time, nevertheless it has been restored unto you again: therefore, see that you are faithful and go on unto the finishing of the remainder of the work as you have begun. 1 Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.
2 And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened.
3 Nevertheless, it is now restored unto you again; therefore see that you are faithful and continue on unto the finishing of the remainder of the work of translation as you have begun.
Do not run faster than you have strength and means provided to translate, but be diligent unto the end, that you may come off conquerer; yea, that you may conquer satan, and those that do uphold this work. 4 Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end.
5 Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.
Behold they have sought to destroy you; yea, even the man in whom you have trusted, and for this cause I said, that he is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been intrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift, and because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold they have taken them from you: 6 Behold, they have sought to destroy you; yea, even the man in whom you have trusted has sought to destroy you.
7 And for this cause I said that he is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift.
8 And because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold, wicked men have taken them from you.
therefore, you have delivered them up; yea, that which was sacred unto wickedness. And behold, satan has put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands; and behold I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written; and on this wise the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work; for he has put it into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate. 9 Therefore, you have delivered them up, yea, that which was sacred, unto wickedness.
10 And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
11 And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
12 And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;
13 For he hath put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate.
Verily I say unto you, that I will not suffer that satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing, for behold he has put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God; for behold they say in their hearts, We will see if God has given him power to translate, if so, he will also give him power again; and if God giveth him power again, or if he translate again, or in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold we have the same with us, and we have altered them: Therefore, they will not agree, and we will destroy him, and also the work, and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get glory of the world. 14 Verily, I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.
15 For behold, he has put it into their hearts to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God, in asking to translate it over again.
16 And then, behold, they say and think in their hearts—We will see if God has given him power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again;
17 And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them;
18 Therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no gift, and that he has no power;
19 Therefore we will destroy him, and also the work; and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get glory of the world.

The text has no colophon, no introduction. However, it is clearly a follow-on to D&C 3. Verse 10 of that revelation dates it as immediately post-Martin-Harris-as-scribe period. Though the exact timing is not apparent from the text, external sources suggest it was given in July 1828.[1] [Edit: As David points out in his comment below, the text of D&C 3 in BCR dates it in July 1828.]

The text of D&C 10 suggests that some time has passed since the delivery of D&C 3. It posits a group of conspirators who have developed a plan to discredit Joseph Smith which involves the fabled lost manuscript of the Book of Mormon. The plan is to take “the book of Lehi”[2] and alter that text, evidently by imitating the handwriting of the manuscript but at least inserting and/or deleting significant portions, probably scattered through the manuscript. The revelation says that the plan involves the assumption that Joseph will reproduce the same text, either by revelation or by whatever means he produced it in the first place. Whether the conspirators are identified with Martin Harris and/or his family is not clear.

The text of this portion of D&C 10 further suggests that no translation has taken place since the loss of the manuscript, but that it is now possible to continue that quest. The instructions are clear: move on from the point of loss. Don’t go back. The text of D&C 5 plays a role here, but that text is complex for several reasons and we avoid discussing it here. We just note that it makes clear the return of Harris as a possible source of help, acknowledging that he wants some convincing witness to do that. It is clear that the loss issue is not resolved at this point. Joseph had been commanded to “Stop” translating after D&C 3, apparently. Harris needs to admit his error, and promise to keep the “commandments” (i.e., the instructions Joseph receives).

Since Oliver Cowdery arrives at the point of D&C 5 or close to it, the internal evidence of this portion of D&C 10 appears to situate it as following D&C 5. D&C 6 introduces Oliver to the enterprise, D&C 10 provides some instruction on their activities. They are to proceed from what may be left of the translation and go to the “end.” [3] Some have seen D&C 5 as being at odds with this because of the seeming stance regarding Harris. But D&C 5 is not really a reconciliation with Harris and the timing of that reconciliation is in question.

The text of Book of Commandments 9 suggests a motive for the conspiracy: the fear that stealing the text was not enough to put an end to Smith’s program. The nail in the coffin is to be the surfacing of the altered text at the right time. The practicality of the plan seems precarious and seems to require a great deal of patience. It also asks for a reason as to why stopping Smith is that important. Wealth would be enough. Are the plates supposed to be in play? Or Harris’ estate? Or Joseph’s so-so treasure hunting success? Seer stones? What possible “glory” would be involved in putting Smith down? Fame seems an unlikely thing here, unless the plates are an object of belief.

Harris himself shows up perennially as the credulous skeptic, bristling with paradox, fearful of deceit, but driven to belief.[4] Again, his role in the conspiracy is not clear from the text. Lucy Mack Smith’s reminiscence suggests Harris was a dupe in the scheme. But the text uses language that may indicate something deeper. On the other hand, florid expression was not uncommon in the literature of the time. I think Harris-as-dupe is the more reasonable alternative for other reasons.

Next, we continue the discussion of this portion of the text before moving on.

—————————

[1] For example, the heading to chapter 2 of the Book of Commandments.

[2] The title given to the stolen manuscript of the Book of Mormon in Book of Commandments chapter 2.

[3] There is some other conterminous evidence that may be marshaled here, but it essentially confirms the ideas here I think.

[4] For Harris, see Ron Walker, “Martin Harris: Mormonism’s Early Convert” Dialogue (winter 1986) 19/4 : 29-43. Others have styled D&C 10 as part of an elaborate fabrication to justify making up a new Book of Mormon story. For example, Quinn Brewster, “The Structure of the Book of Mormon: A Theory of Evolutionary Development.” Dialogue 29/2 (2002): 109–140

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11 Responses to D&C 10. Part 2. Internal Structure Verses 1-19.

  1. ricke says:

    It’s interesting to consider who is speaking to Joseph. For example, all of Section 3 could have been spoken by Moroni who was Joseph’s primary director and mentor. Notice, for example, that all the references to God and Jesus Christ in D&C 3 are in the third person, and the parts that are in the first person could well fit the voice of Moroni. Interestingly, Section 10, which as you note is clearly a sequel, is likely a conflation of two revelations: the first part in the same voice as D&C 3 delivered in September 1828, and a second part, which is in the voice of God delivered the following May. (See Max H. Parkin, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10,” The Seventh Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, The Doctrine and Covenants, Brigham Young University, 1979, pp 68-84.)

    • WVS says:

      Yes, good observations. Parkin had been thinking about this thing for years. There is a “stop” revelation somewhere though. It appears to place more distance between D&C 3 and D&C 10. I wish we had the missing pages. It might help. I’m going to look at Parkin’s piece later.

  2. David G. says:

    Thanks for this, WVS. We just taught D&C 10 in our Stake Institute class tonight, so these issues are fresh in my mind. I’m glad to see someone is doing a detailed exegesis to try to determine when portions of the text were received, as there clearly are serious questions as to dating. The BC gives May 1829 (which Bushman follows), the HC gives Summer 1828 (which the 1981 edition follows), and the JSP folks date it to “Circa April 1829.” I asked Robin Jensen exactly what they mean by that, and he indicated, as you lay out here, that they think it’s a composite text, with elements coming from post-D&C 3 all the way through April or even May of 1829.

    However, it is clearly a follow-on to D&C 3. Verse 10 of that revelation dates it as immediately post-Martin-Harris-as-scribe period. Though the exact timing is not apparent from the text, external sources suggest it was given in July 1828.

    I know this isn’t your main focus, but it’s worth pointing out that the BCR’s D&C 3 text has “July one Thousand Eighthundred & Twenty Eight” in JW’s handwriting, which I think indicates that they had a pretty good idea when the BCR was created when it was received. The Cowdery revs (7-9) included in the extant BCR all have “April 1829″ inserted in Cowdery’s handwriting, suggesting when they created the BCR that they weren’t sure when they were received.

    The text of D&C 10 suggests that some time has passed since the delivery of D&C 3.

    Another internal reference that helps with dating is verse 3’s reference to the “gift” being restored, which indicates that that part was at least post-September 22, 1828, when Moroni returned the plates to JS.

    • WVS says:

      Thanks, David. You’re right, I just blew by the BCR text of D&C 3- missed the Whitmer dating. The flavor of D&C 10 is very negative about Harris in this portion and while it’s circular, it seems to suggest that Harris is being a wiener about D&C 5. Hope the class is going great. You should report.

  3. David G. says:

    The class is going very well. Our numbers keep increasing each week (last night ever last chair in the high council room was filled) and the attendees are really responding well to the lectures, even the more controversial stuff like seerstones, treasure guardians, and stone-in-the-hat translation.

  4. David G. says:

    So clarify for me your thoughts on D&C 5’s dating problems. Marquardt takes his March 1829 date from the manuscript in the NKW collection and JSP also dates in March, before Cowdery’s arrival, although it is is not extant in BCR. Do you think it should be dated differently?

    • WVS says:

      Not problems with the March date, the text has really important evolution in a number of ways from Whitney. (vss 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19). That’s all I meant by complex. You just have to be careful in using the text relative to other early texts.

      • David G. says:

        Ah, ok. Makes sense. I assume you’re referring primarily to the bit about JS’s “only gift” and the later changes?

      • WVS says:

        Yeah. It seems like there is some stuff (changes) that could involve time stamps and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

  5. Pingback: D&C 10. Part 3. Text Evolution in Verses 1-19. « Boap.org's Blog

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