The Lord’s Prayer, Nineteenth-Century Update

I suspect that most Latter-day Saints do not know that Joseph Smith revealed a Lord’s Prayer for the New Dispensation. No, not in the Inspired Version (or Joseph Smith Translation, revision) of the Bible. This was a revelation, almost certainly connected to that biblical revision work, but separate from it, a New Prayer for the Last Times, much like the original prayer was a prayer for the last times. To catch the vision here, I’ll take the Mathean prayer and place it in parallel with this new prayer, that was dictated on October 30, 1831. The context of the prayer is important, and it serves as a kind of preface for foundational revelations of November 1831 that defined church polity and established a form of government that carried on through modern manifestations of Mormonism.

Matthew 6 Doctrine and Covenants 65
9 . . . Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
1 Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful, whose going forth is unto the ends of the earth, yea, whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
2 The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
3 Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.
4 Pray unto the Lord, call upon his holy name, make known his wonderful works among the people.
5 Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth.
6 Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.

The prayer pronounced by Joseph Smith in this revelation is clearly an eschatological one, “make known his works among the people,” pray that God’s “kingdom may go forth on the earth.” “Prepare ye the supper of the Lamb” suggests the interpretation of the bread of Matthew, as found in part 1 of this post. Verse 6 includes the doxology from Matthew, something most scholars believe was a later addition to that text. This illustrates the approach of Joseph Smith’s translations. They retain much of what is familiar for the sake of the mechanics of acceptance and authority in the nineteenth century.

That said, Latter-day Saints seem to make little use of either the Old or New Prayers in liturgical ways. I think this is rather unfortunate, but perhaps we simply don’t have a good place to acknowledge them. Both are beautiful devotions and reckon with important narratives for Christian/Mormon premillennialism. The New Prayer carries a Mathean slant so to speak: it quotes both from the Old and New Testaments. I don’t have the inclination to examine these too closely here, but I’ll just call attention to verse 2: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth.” However we may understand this today (and that understanding is as legitimate as any) in the period when the revelation was dictated, “man” was seen as a direct reference to Joseph Smith, but not in the sense of “priesthood” particularly. Rather it referred to his gift to See, and hence to Reveal, what was in Heaven. The keys unlocked Heaven so that the man could open the Heavenly doors, gates, and observe. Much is made of the seeric office in Joseph Smith’s early career, and this was one more reference to that. Of course, the language echoes Matthew 16, but I’m speaking of the early Mormon interpretation. Enough of that, though there are some worthy riches here.

In the first post, I looked at some of the textual issues with the Old Prayer. For the New Prayer, there are several important manuscripts, imperfectly aligned. Indeed, one of these manuscripts has language that adds nicely to the form. I’ll just consider two of these manuscripts here, and I may go more deeply into this text elsewhere (too many projects). The two manuscripts I’ll give here are designated as RB1 and WEM. RB1 refers to Revelation Book 1, as found in the Joseph Smith Papers, Manuscript Revelation Books. WEM refers to a copy of the revelation found in early Mormon and eventual apostle, William E. McLellin’s journal. McLellin copied the revelation within a few weeks of its dictation and probably from the original. RB1 represents another copy of the original. The original itself is not extant. Below, I give a variorum based on RB1, noting it’s differences with WEM in annotation (by line number). I also give a facsimile of WEM, since it is inconvenient to produce WEM from the variorum. So, here you go:

RB1-DC65

Click on the image to get a readable size.

Now for WEM independently:
WEM

The two manuscripts suggest several things about the archetype. One obvious one is that the archetype (original dictated manuscript) did not slavishly quote from Daniel in verse 2. The alignment with Daniel represents a redaction by Joseph Smith himself (“hewn from” is replaced by “cut out of”).

Note that McLellin’s preamble to the revelation text adds: “on the 6th Matthew 10 verse”. This suggests that the revelation is a commentary on the Old Prayer, or a response to it, perhaps renewing its eschatological stance, if you will. The revelation date puts it at some distance from Joseph Smith’s work on Matthew, about a month from that I believe, but near enough to make sense of that interpretation of it’s meaning.

There is a lot more that could be said here, certainly in a theological sense, but also a historical one. The revelation clearly fits with the early Mormon view that that Second Coming was an imminent event, only a few decades in the future, a prospect linked to the current Zion project in Missouri. The failure of that project (and its eventual placement in the eschaton) had profound effects on Joseph Smith and Mormonism in general.

Two Lord’s Prayers. Both beautiful expressions of belief and example.

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3 Responses to The Lord’s Prayer, Nineteenth-Century Update

  1. J. Stapley says:

    Awesome.

  2. WVS says:

    Thanks, J.

  3. JKC says:

    I agree. This is really awesome.

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