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The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 4: April 1834-September 1835 Hardcover – May 9, 2016
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Excerpts from Documents, Volume 4
Revelation Commanding the Camp of Israel to Disband
22 June1834 [D&C 105]
Itis expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for theredemption of Zion, that they themselves may be prepared and that my people maybe taught more perfectly, and have experience and know more perfectlyconcerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands, and thiscannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from onhigh, for behold I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be pouredout upon them[.]
Discourse Prefacing the Calling of the Twelve Apostles
14 February 1835
President Smith arose and stated the reason why this meeting wascalled. It was this. God had commanded it and it was made known to him byvision and by the Holy Spirit. he then gave a relation of some of thecircumstances attending us while journeying to Zion, our trials, sufferings&c &c. He said God had not designed all this for nothing, but he had itin remembrance yet, and those who went to Zion, with a determination to laydown their lives, if necessary, it was the Will of God, that they should beordained to the ministry and go forth to prune the vineyard for the lasttime[.]
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The main events covered in this volume are Zion’s Camp; the publication of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants; financial difficulties (particularly those related to publishing and the building of the Kirtland Temple); the formation and operation of the Kirtland high council; the call of Joseph Smith, Sr., to patriarch, and the calling of 12 apostles; and the beginning of the writing of the early history of the church.
The main body of the book consists of documents that Joseph Smith was personally involved with, and then there are a series of appendices with documents for which Joseph Smith’s involvement is questionable. Such documents include the first Lecture on Faith, “Letter to the Saints Scattered Abroad”, “Statement on Marriage”, “Declaration on Government and Law”, and patriarchal blessings given to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and William Smith.
The Lectures on Faith are thought to be primarily written by Sidney Rigdon, although Joseph may have been involved in presenting them. The Statement on Marriage was included because Joseph had put together the Doctrine and Covenants and they were included, although it was thought that it may have been done by Oliver Cowdery without his consent. (This is important because the statement forbids plural marriage and, as explained in a footnote, Joseph may have learned of the doctrine in 1831 and begun sharing it in 1832. He also married Fanny Alger about the time this was published.)
The patriarchal blessings to Joseph’s parents and brothers were given by him, but were expanded by Oliver Cowdery when they were recorded. It is not clear whether he had authorization to do so, and he even charged Hyrum, Samuel, and William for it (as recorder, he routinely charged based on word count), but he felt the expansions were “correct and according to the mind of the Lord.” (page 486)
One interesting item in the main part of the book is a patriarchal blessing given to Joseph and Emma. At this time, the blessings of a husband and wife were considered one blessing, which is why Emma’s is included. The blessings were given just after Joseph, Sr. was called to be the patriarch. He called his family together and gave each of them and their spouses blessings. The footnotes here provide details and context about things that are mentioned in the blessings, such as this about Emma: “A July 1830 revelation called Emma an ‘Elect Lady’ and explained to her that she would ‘be ordained under his [JS’s] hand to expound Scriptures & exhort the Church.’ Emma was eventually named president of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, an ecclesiastical organization of Latter-day Saint women formed in March 1842. During the organizational meeting of the Relief Society, JS stated that Emma had been ordained ‘at the time, the Revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all.’ JS also commented on the meaning of ‘Elect Lady,’ explaining that ‘Elect meant to be Elected to a certain work &c, & that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s Election to the Presidency of the Society.’” (pages 207-208)
Another item that is included that some may find of interest is in a letter to Emma dated June 4, 1834. Joseph says regarding Zion’s Camp, “The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting [p. 57] occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity.” A footnote explains: “On 3 June, the Camp of Israel passed through the vicinity of what is now Valley City, Illinois, where several members of the camp climbed a large mound. At the top, they uncovered the skeletal remains of an individual JS reportedly identified as Zelph, a ‘white Lamanite.’ Archaeologists have since identified the mound as Naples-Russell Mound #8 and have classified it as a Hopewell burial mound of the Middle Woodland period of the North American pre-Columbian era (roughly 50 BC to AD 250). (Godfrey, ‘The Zelph Story,’ 31, 34; Farnsworth, ‘Lamanitish Arrows,’ 25-48.) (page 57)
At 668 pages, this volume is the largest in the Documents series to date. For anyone interested in the events of this time period in church history, this book is a must have.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project has released volume 4 in the Documents series,[†] a collection of ninety-three documents (some of which may be new to readers) covering April 1834–September 1835. Transcription intros and annotations provide high-octane scholarly analysis. It’s a must read for serious students of Mormonism.
Volume 4 in the Documents series (D4) produced by The Joseph Smith Papers Project is a welcome tour de force that guides students of Mormonism through the public and private activities of Joseph Smith (JS) April 1834–September 1835.[†] Top-shelf scholarly intros and historical- and text-critical annotations accompany ninety-three document transcriptions.
Among the many events discussed in D4 is the 1834 Camp of Israel (later called Zion’s Camp). Letters, revelations, blessings, resolutions all provide the socio-political backdrop for the expedition to escort exiled Mormons back to their homes after having been driven from them by Missourians (see the index under “Camp of Israel (Zion’s Camp),” D4:636). The documents shed light on the camp’s external threats and internal challenges. On June 22, 1834, the camp disbanded under divine edict just as a cholera outbreak spread through the ranks, leaving many ill (including JS) and over a dozen dead (D4:69–77). In the end, the anticipated brutality of Missouri ruffians was eclipsed by the onslaught of microbial mobs.
D4 also includes several documents that may be new to readers. One such source, Patriarchal Blessings Book 1, preserves visions and blessings, intimate vignettes of key early Mormon figures.
For instance, on the 1835 autumnal equinox (twelfth anniversary of Moroni’s visitation), scribe Oliver Cowdery put pen to paper as JS gave blessings to four of his closest associates, John Corrill, William W. Phelps, and John and David Whitmer, David’s blessing “by vision” (D4:428–36). When it came to Oliver Cowdery, the script flipped—*he* gave JS a blessing while in a “heavenly vision,” a prophetic panorama of JS’s life. Although it’s difficult to align several visionary details with JS’s experiences (e.g., “he shall remain to a good old age, even till his head is like the pure wool”), Cowdery’s language exudes heroic aspirations and intimate fondness for JS (see D4:437–41). Ever so briefly we glimpse a scribe’s devotion to his seer.
Also reproduced in D4 are blessings bestowed by JS upon family members on December 18, 1833 (see volume 1 of the Journals series, J1:21–24). They reappear in D4 because when Cowdery added the blessings to Patriarchal Blessings Book 1 in September 1835 they were significantly expanded (all more than double in size, one more than quadruples; see D4:485–94). Post-1833 ecclesiology and theology, such as the office of patriarch and its attendant patriarchal priesthood, now permeate the blessings. JS’s development of an ancestral male “right” to priesthood not only found its way into the revised blessings, but also into his 1835 Egyptian Alphabet project and the portions of the Book of Abraham dictated in Kirtland, where it likely served as the basis for priesthood restriction on Pharaoh and his descendants (Abr. 1:26–27)—a ban on *patriarchal* priesthood, not Melchizedek or Aaronic.[††]
Editors of D4 distinguish the added material to the blessings by using gray shading for portions that match the 1833 versions; annotations specify word differences between the 1833 and 1835 versions.
Like JS’s blessings to his family, another document that makes a reappearance from an earlier volume is D&C 27 (see volume 1 of the Documents series, D1:164–66), because it too was significantly revised in 1835. Originally issued ca. August 1830, the version published in the 1835 D&C is over triple the size of the initially dictated revelation. Much of the revised text reflects post-1830 theological and narrative innovations that are skillfully discussed in the intro and annotations (D4:408–10).
As reviewers we would feel remiss if we didn’t include the obligatory typo “gotcha,” so here it is: in the index under “Eber D. Howe” (D4:645) the page number “73n339” should be 72n339. Yeah, pretty earth shaking.
Expertly written, edited, and researched, D4 is a must read for anyone craving deeper insight into Mormonism and its founder.
[†] Matthew C. Godfrey, Brenden W. Rensink, Alex D. Smith, Max H Parkin, and Alexander L. Baugh, eds., _Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835_, vol. 4 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin and Matthew J. Grow (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016).
[††] See Brent Lee Metcalfe, “The Curious Textual History of ‘Egyptus’ the Wife of Ham,” _John Whitmer Historical Association Journal_ 34, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2014): 3n5.