D&C relics on display at library

Universe Staff Writer
Thursday, Aug 9, 1979
The Daily Universe Page 7

Different editions of the Doctrine and Covenants containing rare copies and other original manuscripts, not found elsewhere, are now on display in the Special Collections. section of the HBL Library.

Chad J. Flake, curator of the special collections section of the BYU library, said, "this is the finest display of the Doctrine and Covenants that there will ever be."

The exhibit was Flake's idea, but it was Assistant Curator Scott Duvall who did research for three weeks to prepare the display. Duvall said everything on display belongs to BYU.

Duvall said the scope of the exhibit is to give a sampling of the history of the Doctrine and Covenants.  Hand-written manuscripts, early periodicals, broadsheets, first editions, and foreign translations depict the transformation from original pen-and-ink manuscripts to the newest printer's copy, containing the statement on the priesthood.

Two manuscript revelations of Joseph Smith, Jr., one in John Whitmer's handwriting and the other in Sidney Rigdon's own penmanship, were acquired by BYU special collections in 1969 as part of the Newell K. Whitney collection. One half of the cost of the acquisition was by donations of the Whitney and Groo families.

Section 115 was first printed in the Elder's Journal, of which few copies are in existence. Another early publication of which there are four surviving copies, is the Evening and Morning Star, which contains 23 pre-Doctrine and Covenant printings of Joseph Smith's revelations.

BYU owns two original broadsheets, each the only remaining copy in existence. Broadsheets were individual revelations sent out like epistles to be read and possibly posted in the branches of the Church.

According to Flake,. there were approximately 200 copies made at the time of each original printing. Two are included in this display, and the Church Historian's office has one other original broadsheet. These three are the only ones known to be in existence.

Book of Commandments

The initial action to compile the revelations received by Joseph Smith into the form of a book, took place at Hiram, Ohio on Nov. 1, 1831. The first 160 pages of The Book of Commandments, as the compilation was known, had been printed; but during the printing process, the printing office was attacked and loose pages were scattered in the streets of Independence, Mo.

Pages of the book were gathered by 14-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins [Lightner] and her 12-year-old sister. A card in the display, prepared by Duvall, recounts the events as remembered by Mrs. Lightner.

This card accompanies one of 20 original copies of the Book of Commandments known to be in existence.

"Of all the books in this display, this copy of the Book of Commandments is the most valuable and the most rare," Flake said.

When compilation of Joseph Smith's revelations was again undertaken, the name of the book was changed to the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. BYU Special Collections owns copies from all the early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants printed before 1903, except for first and second Danish editions, the second Dutch edition and the first Hawaiian edition.

Some of the more distinctive books on display are the Doctrine and Covenants originally owned by Brigham Young and George Albert Smith. A printer's copy, on loan from Donald Schmidt of the Church Historical office, contains the newly bound revelation on the Celestial Kingdom, by Joseph Smith, and the revelation on the Redemption of the Dead, by Joseph Fielding Smith.

These revelations were previously included in the back of the Pearl of Great Price. It was announced in June that the revelations would be bound as section 137 and 138, along with Official Declaration II on Priesthood.

One other interesting feature of the exhibit is the 1888 Swedish language edition of the Doctrine and Covenants which contained two revelations by John Taylor, which were never included in the English editions.

These two revelations also appeared as sections of the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1893 German edition, the 1900 Danish Edition, the 1903 German edition, and the 1928 Swedish edition.

Revelation's content

The revelation received by John Taylor on Oct. 13, 1882 included the appointment of Heber J. Grant and George Teasdale to the position of Apostles and Seymour B. Young to the First Council of the Seventy. The other new revelation contained in the 1888 Swedish edition of the Doctrine and Covenants contains the answer to questions concerning the compilation of the organization of the Seventies.

College of Religion Chairman Ellis Rasmussen, who is on the committee for the revision of LDS scripture references, indicated it was his impression these two revelations were printed by a Swedish mission president in a foreign country without approval of church leaders.

University of Utah Institute of Religion Associate Director Ed Brant, a returned missionary from Sweden, has done research in this area but was unsuccessful in locating any documents concerning the Swedish printing of section 137 & 138, as it was called in later editions.

Closer examination of the first Swedish publication revealed in the inside cover that it was printed by Deseret News Press in Salt Lake City.

Investigation of the publications around the, date of revelation partially explains the impetus for the revelation. In a letter to Albert Carrington, president of the British Mission and Editor of the Millenial Star, President John Taylor explained a mix-up that occurred after General Conference and the revelation that cleared things up.

Theodore B. Lewis was sustained in General Conference to be ordained to the First Council of Seventy, but, explains the letter in the Millenial Star, the next day, Oct. 9, 1882, when Elder Lewis was to be set apart he explained that he had already been ordained a high priest.

Four days later, President John Taylor received the previously mentioned revelation calling Seymour B. Young to the unfilled position in the First Council of Seventy.

Millenial Star

This same letter in the Millenial Star, signed "Words of good cheer from John Taylor S.L.C., Utah Oct. 18, 1882," gives further explanation and background to the Swedish publication of the revelation.

President Taylor submitted the revelation to the Twelve Apostles and it was accepted by them. The revelation was subsequently submitted for a vote of the stake presidents, (who apparently had remained after conference in Salt Lake City to attend to meetings or business), the First Council of Seventy and others who were lingering after conference.

Information concerning the approval of the April 13, 1883 revelation, concerning the completion of the organization of the Seventy, was obtained through correspondence with Brandt.

A portion of the letter states: "This was issued as a leaflet or pamphlet to all seventies. The letters were published in the Swedish D&C, but the actual revelation of 14 April 1883 was not included." These letters, which were first published in the pamphlet and later in the D&C, consist of a letter from the First Presidency to the Twelve Apostles and the Seven Presidents of the Seventies, requesting them to follow the instruction in the second letter.

The second letter of instructions was signed by the First Presidency and detailed the changes in the organization of the Seventies which the First Presidency felt were now needed in lieu of the earlier instructions of October of 1844.

The revelation of April 14, 1883 consists of the Lord's approval of the First Presidency's proposal of the changes of the organization of the Seventies. The introduction of the pamphlet states that the two letters and the revelation "were presented at a meeting of the First Presidency of the Church and the Council of the Twelve Apostles and the First Seven Presidents of the Seventies, on Saturday, April 14th, 1883 and were approved by unanimous vote of said meeting."

This formerly published revelation and other unpublished revelations can be viewed on the fourth floor of the BYU library in the controlled area of the Special Collections section.

A rare original copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, or Book of Commandments, holds the interest of a visitor. The Harold B. Lee Library has a special collection of Doctrine and Covenants manuscripts, copies and first editions.  It is on the fourth floor in the Special Collection section.

[Note that visitors were not allowed handle these rare books as the picture implies.  For rescuing the pages of the Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith gave Mary Elizabeth one of the 20 books that was produced by the interrupted printing.  It is currently at the Southern Methodist University Library in Texas. I have the byline for this story, but some of the content was provided by standard PR release information.  I supplemented it with much additional information. ]

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