D&C 10. Part 2. Internal Structure Verses 1-19.
September 16, 2010 11 Comments
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. [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” 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.”  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. 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.
 For example, the heading to chapter 2 of the Book of Commandments.
 The title given to the stolen manuscript of the Book of Mormon in Book of Commandments chapter 2.
 There is some other conterminous evidence that may be marshaled here, but it essentially confirms the ideas here I think.
 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