More on the April 8 Discourse

While looking at the manuscript history of the Church today, I saw some interesting examples of editing which I thought I would share. One comes from Joseph Smith’s address of April 8, 1844. The part I’m thinking of is this:

we calculate to give the Elders of Israel their washings and anointings, and attend to those last and more impressive ordinances; without which we cannot obtain celestial thrones; but there must be a holy place prepared for that purpose. There was a proclamation made during the time that the foundation of the temple was laid to that effect; and there are provisions made until the work is completed, so that men may receive their endowments

The underlined portions indicate material which was either added or indicates altered witnesses. For this text there were a couple of intermediate texts, which I shall call here GM1 and GM2. GM1 was the production of Jonathan Grimshaw and generated from the witness texts he had on hand in 1856. The phrase I’m interested in here is this: There was a proclamation made during the time “that the foundation of the temple was laid to that effect;

This phrase was in the original fusion text by Grimshaw. The phrase is (apparently) an expansion of William Clayton’s report of the sermon and it claims that a “proclamation” was given at the time of the Nauvoo Temple cornerstone ceremony (6 April 1841). As in most cases, this sermon reconstruction was reviewed by the Church historian (in this case, George A. Smith) and perhaps by Brigham Young and/or his counselors. Changes were made producing GM2 which was copied into the ms history. But the phrase above was not changed.

In looking for evidence of any proclamation made at the cornerstone ceremony mirroring the message of the April 1844 sermon in this pericope I came up empty. There was only one speech at the ceremony, given by Sidney Rigdon. Rigdon’s speech ( fragmentary report was published in the 15 April issue of the Times and Seasons) offers no clue about any declaration or proclamation at the time.[1]

Prior to the time of the ceremony, a revelation (D&C 124) was received by Joseph Smith (19 January 1841) which mentions a proclamation. But the instructed content of that proclamation seems to be unconnected with the April 8, 1844 sermon, at least in the sense that the 1856 text suggests. That proclamation was never issued in Joseph Smith’s lifetime in any case.

I expect this was a case of mistaken identity. Clayton’s original report is muddled here, but it reads

are calculating soon as Temple finished washing & anointing &c when those last & most impt ordinance can be done – must be in a house – prov – made during time of laying found. – where men may rec endowmt

The portion reading “prov – made during time of laying found. – where men may rec endowmt” is not clear and “prov” could have been mistaken for proclamation, etc. The other witnesses texts make it clear that what Joseph Smith was suggesting were provisions made to communicate the endowment prior to the time of the temple’s completion. A covert announcement of the anointed quorum.

But since GM1, GM2 and the ms history all were made (inadvertently I think) to make reference to a non-existent proclamation, I wanted to have a look at the ms history report of the cornerstone ceremony. The 6 April 1841 ceremony record there reports the T&S account of the proceedings but there is an interesting bit added at the end of the report:

If the strict order of the Priesthood, were carried out in the building of Temples. The first stone will be laid at the South East Corner by the First Presidency of the Church; the South West Corner should be laid next, the Third or N.W. Corner next and the fourth or N.E. corner the last. The First Presidency should lay the S.E. Corner stone, and dictate who are the proper persons to lay the other Corner Stones. If a Temple is built at a distance, and the First Presidency are not present, then the Quroum of the Twelve Apostles are the persons to dictate the order for that Temple; and in the absence of the Twelve Apostles, then the Presidency of the Stake, will lay the South East Corner Stone; the Melchizedek Priesthood laying the Corner Stones at the East side of the Temple; and the Lesser Priesthood, those on the West side. [Ink and form show this was added later.]

This was added by Church leaders in Utah and is clearly anachronistic in the sense of making reference to distant temples. Nauvoo didn’t have truck with distant temples. (A major point of the April 8 discourse was that people no longer would need to gather to Nauvoo. They could come to the temple, do their business, and return home.)

The addition of this paragraph in the ms history made it appear contemporary with Joseph Smith and so the paragraph ended up in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (page 183) under the rubric of being Joseph Smith’s instruction at the time of the Nauvoo cornerstone ceremony. Actually, the statement falls in line with several changes and additions to the ms history meant to solidify the position of the Quorum of the Twelve in Church administrative lore. This is something Joseph Smith did do in Nauvoo in a number of ways but not in this particular way.

These are interesting passages and deserve further study. I may come back to them at some point.

[1] A January 1841 proclamation to the Saints from the First Presidency mentions the temple, but not in the sense of the comment in question.

8 Responses to More on the April 8 Discourse

  1. Tod Robbins says:

    Very interesting. So you don’t think the above mentioned proclamation is the same one you detailed earlier?

    • WVS says:

      There was an “internal” proclamation in the 8 April 1844 sermon, but the modified 1856 text of 8 April references a 6 April 1841 proclamation that says certain things. I don’t think that proclamation exists.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    This is all wonderfully insightful stuff, WVS. Keep it coming.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    As a side note, WVS, have you been able to access the Clayton holographs?

  4. J. Stapley says:

    …also, I like how the sidebar lists comments as being for the “April 8 Disco.” As if they went out of fashion in the 1970s.

  5. ricke says:

    Regarding the paragraph about laying temple cornerstones:
    Personally, I have no problem with subsequent Church leaders making changes. That would be consistent with the notion of current revelation. But I wish they hadn’t felt free to modify things retroactively, as if they were the new way from the beginning. Unfortunately, because they didn’t realize the difficulties it would eventually create, some Church leaders and historians appear to have believed they could tinker with Church history at will to reflect a subsequent development or perspective. I don’t fault their character in this, because I don’t believe they were being dishonest. I don’t even fault their lack of foresight because most of them were not trained in such matters. Moreover, Joseph himself set the pattern that they followed. I think hindsight proves that it is best to never fool around with history.

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