D&C 10. Part 1. External Characteristics.

Recently we took a rather detailed look at some aspects of D&C 107 which plays a remarkable role in LDS Church structure and function. (See here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12).

We now turn to another of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Section 10 of the 1981 edition of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants is an interesting text for several reasons. It seems to mark a transition in the nature of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Moreover, an internal analysis of the text offers certain mysteries and curiosities. We will investigate some of these in this series. First though, an external picture of the text.

The earliest extant text is in the handwriting of John Whitmer and is found in the Book of Commandments and Revelations,[1] or as it is formally known now, Revelation Book 1.[2] This text, produced in 1831, is incomplete. In current section 10 numbering the RB text is missing the first 41 verses of section 10. The Whitmer text in RB suggests that at least some of these missing verses were originally found in RB. Unfortunately for us, RB is missing pages 3-10. The revelation (Section 10) begins, based on John Whitmer’s index at the back of the volume, on page 8. There would be ample space on these missing pages for the balance of the text as based on later imprints.

Whitmer labels this revelation a “Commandment” in his index. There are two titles used for entries in RB 1, “Commandment” and “Revelation.” The former is reserved for communications requiring the recipient to perform some action (obey instruction) the second label refers to communications giving doctrinal exposition/explanation.

The first Church imprint containing section 10 was to be the 1833 A Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law on the 6th of April 1830 (usually called the Book of Commandments). It was numbered in this book as chapter 9. The text reappeared in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants as section 36. It was renumbered as section 10 in 1876.

While excerpts of a number of texts (selected from both “commandments” and “revelations”) in RB 1 were published by William W. Phelps in Independence, MO in the Church paper “Evening and Morning Star,” section 10 was not printed there. Since the first 41 verses appear first in the Book of Commandments, we shall look carefully at these verses later. Based on the correspondence between RB 1 and the Book of Commandments as far as the rest of the revelation is concerned, we take as a working hypothesis that chapter 9 of the Book of Commandments contains a reasonably accurate picture of the first 41 verses as they may have appears in RB 1 before it was damaged.

As far as when or how the missing pages of RB 1 were taken out (fell out?) forensic analysis may be able to account for that, but by all appearances, the binding mechanism simply failed. The whereabouts of the missing leaves is unknown.

Next: we begin to consider the internal structure of the “commandment” and its relation to some of the puzzling aspects of the text.

[1] Title appended to the book apparently by 1850s church historical clerk, Leo Hawkins extracted from John Whitmer’s opening description of the contents of RB 1. Since Hawkins plays an important role in the compilation of the sermons of Joseph Smith, a brief biography is found in the glossary of our forthcoming volume on Joseph Smith’s funeral sermons.

[2] As it appears in the opening volume of the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith papers.

5 Responses to D&C 10. Part 1. External Characteristics.

  1. ricke says:

    I loved the series on D&C 107, and am looking forward to this one. Thanks for doing them.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Looking forward to this.

  3. WVS says:

    Thanks, ricke, J. I hope it turns out well.

  4. Pingback: D&C 10. Part 2. Internal Structure Verses 1-19. « Boap.org's Blog

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

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