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Author Topic: Moses, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and the Updating of Revelation  (Read 262 times)


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Something that is often not considered, is that different chapters of Moses and the JST are contemporaneous with many of the 1830 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, and directly relate to them. Reading those sections in their historical context adds to both the chapters in Moses, but also the surrounding questions and comments presented in the D&C sections.

For example: Moses 1 was originally a standalone document, the Visions of Moses, in June 1830. Something interesting to note about that, is that since it was a purely revelatory text, it was something Joseph was experiencing, 'even as Moses'. If you replaced the name 'Moses' with 'Joseph' in the document, it would be just as accurate. Joseph was given a revelatory experience. You might say it was like when Nephi asked to see what Lehi saw, and instead of just telling him, he was given his own unque experience. That's what Moses 1 is.

And what were some of the lessons in Moses 1? I found it fascinating in preparing for the past week's Come Follow Me that one of the lessons in the vision was Satan declaring himself the Only Begotten, and trying to pass off counterfeit revelation - something Moses/(Joseph) was able to discern because God's glory and the counterfeit glory were distinct.

It was very shortly after this vision that the Hiram Page incident happened. One might consider the Vision of Moses as a bit of a warning and guide about that situation, and how to handle it.

Here's something else: Section 28 not only addresses the Hiram Page incident, but it also calls out Oliver Cowdery. Here's a key reason why:

In June 1829, shortly after Joseph and Oliver both have their angelic ordinations, Oliver, in response to revelation, seeks revelation and compiles a document called the Articles of the Church of Christ. It's a handbook (the first Handbook!) to prepare for when the Church is organized. D&C 18 has told them to 'rely on what is written' - but the Book of Mormon hadn't been published yet. So Oliver compiled the directions from the BoM concerning Baptism, Ordination, Sacrament, etc, and put them into a framework document to use, and he prefaced it with first-person revelation declaring this was the Lord working through him in his role as an Apostle. Joseph and Oliver used this document through the establishment of the Church in April 6 1830 where Joseph was ordained as First Elder, and Oliver as Second.

Okay, now shortly after this, Joseph began work on an updated version of this Articles document, which became known as the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ. It added more inspired content, updated some language, and added more material.

At the first conference of the Church on June 1830, this new document - a fresh update and expansion of Oliver's - is sustained/ratified by the conference.

A COUPLE MONTHS LATER, Oliver is compiling and re-copying the revelation texts, and he does a close-read comparison of Joseph's 1830 document, and his own 1829 document, and notes one particular change that really sets him off - Oliver's document, when describing the qualifications of Baptism, said only:

"Now therefore whosoever repenteth & humbleth himself before me & desireth to be baptized in my name shall ye baptize them"

Joseph's version was similar, but added a key clause:

" ...and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, "

This REALLY BOTHERED Oliver. Why? Because it reminded him of a practice many Churches had where a seeker would not be considered 'saved' unless they had shown a physical, radical outward experience (such as flailing, speaking in tongues, etc) to prove God had changed their bodies. It opened up the possibilities to corruption, and he couldn't stand it. So, he wrote Joseph a letter in which he wrote, "“I command you in the name of God to erase those words that no priest-craft be among us.

Joseph's draft history gives a good overview of what happened next:
I [Joseph] immediately wrote him in reply asking by what authority he commanded me to alter or to erase to add or diminish from any commandment or revelation from Almighty God.

In a few days I visited him and found that Mr Whitmer and family had imbibed the same opinion and it was with great difficulty that I could convince any of them that the doctrine contained in the sentence was in strict accordance with those of the scripture and was in fact a revelation from God. At length, Christian Whitmer became convinced that this was the case; and by his assistance succeeded in convincing the remainder of the family, and Oliver Cowdery confessed his error.

We drew a lesson from this calculated to teach us the necessity of humility and prayer, that He would teach us His ways and that we should not decide rashly or in haste.

So the problem wasn't that Oliver's original document was wrong, or not inspired. It wasn't that Joseph's revision and updating of it wasn't inspired. The problem was that Oliver (after having sustained it), unilaterally demanded something be changed. He would later come around to see how his fear of the meaning behind the new wording was unfounded.

What's interesting, though, is that D&C 20 would later go on to be revised more. And Oliver would participate in that process! The 1835 version published in the Doctrine and Covenants is not the same as the 1830 version. And while things were updated and revised - the sentance Oliver initially objected to remained there in each following version.

So take ALL of this into consideration (The Visions of Moses/Moses 1, and Oliver and Joseph's experience with updating/revising a revelation text), and now think of the significance to the statement in D&C 28, that in relation to Revelation texts, Joseph "receiveth them even as Moses."

It is right at this time that Joseph begins his Bible Revision project. Just as he had just experienced a new vision 'as Moses', and had a learning experience involving the updating and revision of Revelation for a new audience and new circumstances (D&C 20), he is now ready to apply this to Genesis, and the Bible.

Moses 1, D&C 20, and D&C 28 taught Joseph that he had the ability, authority, and responsibility to update the language of earlier revelations to better speak to the Church's developing circumstances. And that included the Bible.

Moses 2 - 5 came in a chunk by September 1830, which serve as a DIRECT prologue to (and are referenced in) D&C 29.

Church History is a rich tapestry. Sometimes, it can be helpful to see them laid out in order to see how the picture weaves together.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2021, 11:11:50 am by Taalcon »
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Re: Moses, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and the Updating of Revelation
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2021, 05:50:52 pm »
I appreciate you sharing your insights with us. Thanks!
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Re: Moses, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and the Updating of Revelation
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2021, 04:31:24 pm »
In this instance I don't think the "say thanks" button is enough.

Thanks for this - nice bit of additional information and framing.
Don't ask me, I only live here.
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Re: Moses, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and the Updating of Revelation
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2021, 05:39:33 pm »
I'm currently one of our ward's Gospel Doctrine teachers (been teaching remotely). And when I'm preparing my lessons, I take the chunk of sections of the D&C I'm supposed to cover, and do a close read of them and their history and surrounding material (Yay Joseph Smith Papers Documents volumes!), and part of what I'm doing as I'm reading and studying and pondering is looking for a theme and a story to pull them all together. I learn best through story, and so I tend to teach best in the framework of a story.  I've found it also engages my class as well when they can see how the sections of the D&C relate to each other, and to the 'behind the scenes' feelings and issues and concerns and development that's going on.

So I've studied this material before, but this is the first time I've done it to teach it. Fun new insights that happen with that POV!

It's a case where having a couple weeks worth of scripture blocks in the D&C to cover actually helps me to notice things connected in them I might not have otherwise. Because I'm looking for a narrative string, it's easier to discover one! (It's also when you notice cool stuff like in Hyrum's blessing being told "Your tongue is loosed" where in the previous revelation directed to him months before he is told "and then shall your tongue be loosed!")
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Re: Moses, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and the Updating of Revelation
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2021, 02:55:43 pm »
FYI, some additional dates and info that may be helpful if you want to combine a reading of the JST with your study of the D&C in the coming weeks.

June 1830: Vision of Moses: [Moses 1]
June - October 1830: Gen. 1 - 4:24 [Moses 2 - 5]

September 1830:  D&C 28 [Hiram Page and Oliver, Authority of Joseph 'even as Moses']

September 1830: D&C 29 [Involves new material from the Garden story currently being written in the JST manuscripts]

November - December 1830: Gen 4:25 - 5:20 [Moses 6]

December 7, 1830: D&C 35 [Sidney Ridgon is called to act as scribe for the New Translation. Begins immediately.]

December 1830: "The Prophecy of Enoch" Gen 5:20 - 5:22 [Moses 7]

January 2, 1831: D&C 38 [Significant References to the Zion of Enoch as part of the vision for what the Saints are to work towards]

February 1831: Gen 5:23 - 6:13 [Moses 8]

Feb 4 1831: First Bishop in the Church called

February - March 7 1831: JST Gen 6:14 - 24:41 [Includes material about Melchizedek as a High Priest, also describes as being ideal bishop/collecting tithes, and established a new Zion after the pattern of Enoch's]

March 8, 1831: D&C 46 - Direction to start on the New Testament

March 8 - June 1831: JST Matthew 1:1 - Matthew 26:71 [Includes Joseph Smith - Matthew]

June 3 1831: First ordinations to the High Priesthood/Melchizedek Priesthood.

June 1831 -  July 20 1832: Matthew 26:72 - Revelation [Instead of writing out chapters in longhand, now using a 'strike out' and write over method using a physical KJV Bible]
July 1832 - July 1833: Gen 24:42 - Malachi [Using the 'strike out' and write over method using the KJV Bible]
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 03:15:21 pm by Taalcon »
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Re: Moses, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and the Updating of Revelation
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2021, 08:20:55 pm »
Thanks for the analysis and explanation, Taalcon. It is fascinating to understand the process as well as the context. It illustrates how vitally important continuing revelation is not only to deliver guidance as we progress, but also to correct past errors and to provide clarification.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
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