Buried in Manuscripts

I haven’t had much time to post stuff lately, mostly because of boring old work, but I’ve also been doing my share of working with manuscripts related to Joseph Smith’s sermons. One tends to get a narrow focus when hunting for commas and doing handwriting ID, etc. Lately I’ve been dealing with Joseph’s sermon delivered at the stand in Nauvoo, May 12, 1844. This sermon falls in an interesting category, easily placed with crisis things like D&C 113 and meant to position Joseph securely in the queue of biblical prophetic tradition with techniques ranging from misreading bible texts (he references his polyglot again) at the same time advertising the sermon as a follow on to KFD2 (the famous King Follett Discourse).

One of the interesting things about KFD4 (the designation for the 12 May sermon) is Thomas Bullock’s manuscript. Three manuscripts exist based on the Bullock text, his own mostly George A. Smith+self edited ms, one based on that, by Robert Campbell, and finally the version appearing in the ms history of the Church written by Jonathan Grimshaw for which I have not fully determined a genealogy yet (I tell you it’s early days). An analysis of the texts shows that

1. Bullock’s original, while not actually extant can be mostly derived from the available sources.

2. The original did NOT contain a number of the popularly quoted portions of the sermon (they were added by Utah editors without ms support).

3. These manuscripts (and others) support a very healthy skepticism of George Laub’s reports – when they diverge from other texts, they should not be indulged as providing reliable information regarding Joseph’s remarks, unless other reliable witnesses can be found. These are secondary (in the sense of expansion and temporal distance) reports -self enhanced- at best.

4. No presently available published or internet text demonstrates Bullock’s original – all are contaminated in severe ways (keep in mind, this is coming from a text hound – so don’t assume doctrinal earthquakes). I’m including my version of his original in the book (sans his probable British long-hand abbreviation techniques of course -sniff).

I’m not really finished with the textual stuff for the 12 May sermon, and I have not started to produce the probability text, so I’m not providing much detail, but this has been really fun. I’ll probably post more on this in a few months.

In the meantime, I’ve got some things in the post queue which I’ve had in the can for awhile, a strategy I’m using over at BCC as well. But this will keep things going here for a month or two even if it does clean out the acorn store.

I do have another item I’ll put up in a few days, just some thoughts on the changes in Mormon cosmology/ontology between 1844 and 1854. The change in interpretation is dramatic and echoes, if not alludes, to the necessary cultural dynamics of what I’ll call “pioneerism.”

On another note, “ricke” who has commented here off and on will occasionally be posting some book reviews and other things. That will expand our take on things and should make life more interesting for you all, I hope. Now, I crawl back in my candle-lit cave.

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5 Responses to Buried in Manuscripts

  1. J. Stapley says:

    1. Bullock’s original, while not actually extant can be mostly derived from the available sources.

    Huh. So are you doing something her akin to biblical textual criticism?

    These manuscripts (and others) support a very healthy skepticism of George Laub’s reports…These are secondary (in the sense of expansion and temporal distance) reports -self enhanced- at best

    I appreciate the comment. Is journal is fun though.

    • WVS says:

      It’s not so ethereal as all that. Not anywhere near the potential for controversy. That said, it could be characterized as a type of lower criticism I guess.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    er, his journal.

  3. Researcher says:

    Buried in manuscripts. Oh my. That’s how I’ve felt recently, except I’m working with family histories and not using anywhere near the same amount of analysis as you are. I’m starting to have to plan projects out by year: 2011 is the Glades and the Thomases and perhaps the Ann Prior Jarvis journal, 2012 is the Tanners, the Ove Overson diary project may begin by 2015, etc., etc. Perhaps if I quit my day job I could make some more progress on all these projects…

    Good luck with all of yours. Your work is a valuable service and a wonderful resource for the church.

    • WVS says:

      Sounds like you have your work cut out for you. My wife happens to be a Tanner descendent. That guy is all over the place.

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