Hyrum on Prophets

Hiram said before the High councel that no prophet ever did trangress but was directed by the impulse of the spirit involuntarily Also He said that a man shall take his brothers wife and raise up seed unto him as it was in israel must be again established

A youthful Franklin D. Richards (in a few years, Apostle Richards) recorded a number of sermons in Nauvoo. Hyrum Smith was the occasional object of Richards’s jottings. Richards didn’t take his little notebook to sermon events, rather, he wrote down what he heard either from notes, or memory. No notes are in evidence, but that was often the case for early sermon reporters. An excellent example is John Quincy Adams. Adams reported Sunday sermons in his journal after the fact, and often he was not friendly about it, in great contrast to Hyrum who was evidently as loyal as concrete. The remark has obvious references to Joseph, who was far from perfect—a man of sometimes towering temper and odd claims on subjects ranging from politics to anthropology to medicine (and of course, polygamy).

The point of the post is really that Richards’s youthful ardor for the cause meant that he often left little on the floor. He didn’t give all the details perhaps, but he is useful in a number ways. One of those ways is as an illustration of how sermon events were (and are) remembered for the most part. They were almost never perfect transcriptions (even in Utah when shorthand methods grew into use). But they are revealing with respect to reception and the way recorders assimilated, processed, and saw meaning in their own thought-worlds. You can see more of Richards’s reports of Joseph Smith sermons in particular by going over to the Parallel Joseph at BoAp.org and searching on “Scriptural Items,” the name Richards is attached to his little record book. Have fun!

6 Responses to Hyrum on Prophets

  1. ricke says:

    Interesting. Thank you.

  2. BrotherofJared says:

    “The remark has obvious references to Joseph, who was far from perfect”. I’m not sure what rule of measure you can use to determine what you mean by “far from perfect”. Nevertheless, can a person who is less than perfect, not transgress? What would that rule of measure be in comparison with Abraham. Hyrum’s statement seems vaguely familiar. It sounds a lot like “Abraham (Joseph) believed god, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

  3. cj says:

    Hi, I know you did this post a long time ago but I just came across it and found it very interesting. What is the reference for this quote – when did Richards write it down? He wasn’t a member of the NAuvoo High Council as far as I know (too young) so I am assuming he’s writing down what someone else told him? Thanks for sharing a great quote!

    • WVS says:

      Hi cj! The quote comes from his little notebook (CHL MS 4409, August 1843). He may have heard it from someone, but it’s more likely that he was present. High council meetings weren’t necessarily closed to observers. I can’t think of any examples in his notebook that indicate he’s reporting hearsay. This report is pretty typical Richards eyewitness reporting.

      • cj says:

        Thanks for the response. Do you think this means Richards was witness to Hyrum’s reading and explanation of what became D&C 132 (which also happened in August 1843), since that seems to share some similar material to what Richards’ records here? From what I understand, there aren’t detailed contemporary minutes or journal entries of exactly Hyrum said in that particular High Council meeting, so that would make this significant. Thanks!

  4. WVS says:

    Richards was an insider with polygamy before the high council reading and probably knew about the April oral communication stuff. You can see in an earlier content audit of JS — that’s in his little notebook for July 16. Based on that entry, he probably saw the revelation.

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