By Marvin W. Cowan
Our series on LDS Prophets and Prophecies has focused on the Doctrine & Covenants because it contains so many of Joseph Smith’s prophecies. On page 47 of the January 2009 LDS Ensign magazine, the LDS Sunday School General Presidency said, “The Doctrine & Covenants (is) a marvelous book of revelation that was written in our day and for our day.” Can that be true when the most recent addition to the D. & C. is President Kimball’s 1978 statement about a revelation he said he had which allowed black men to have the LDS priesthood. The actual “revelation” has never been published. Two old “visions” were added to the Pearl of Great Price in 1976 and then they were moved to the D. & C. in 1981. One was Joseph Smith’s 1836 “vision” and the other was Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 “vision,” so neither one was new in 1981. Until 1978 the newest addition to the D. & C. was President Woodruff’s 1890 manifesto advising LDS to obey the law and stop being polygamists. The newest addition to the D. & C. before 1890 was Brigham Young’s 1847 instructions on how to organize the LDS move to Utah. Most of the other revelations were by Joseph Smith between 1828 and 1843 and many were about men living then, not today. Yet, the writers of the Ensign article said, “We testify that the Doctrine and Covenants is truly the Lord’s voice in our time to each child of God…” (p. 47). Some of us were alive in 1978, but very few today were alive in 1918. And no one today was alive in 1890, so was the D. & C. really “written in our day and for our day”?
Joseph Smith’s 1836 vision was recorded in his diary on January 21, 1836, but it became LDS scripture 140 years later in 1976 when it was added to the Pearl of Great Price. In 1981 it was moved to the D. & C. where it became D. & C. 137. But when it became LDS scripture, Smith’s 1836 vision was edited and abbreviated from what he wrote in his diary. It was also slightly altered in the History of the Church, vol. II pages 380-381. Smith’s original 1836 vision was published in An American Prophet’s Record, The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, published by Signature Books in Salt Lake City, UT in 1987, pages 118-119. It is easy to see the changes by comparing that with the content in D. & C. 137. For example D. & C. 137:5 says, “I saw father Adam and Abraham and my father and my mother…” But, in his diary Smith wrote, “I saw father Adam and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother…” Why was “Michael” left out of D. & C. 137:5 and H. of C. Vol. II, p. 380? Before his 1836 vision, Smith recorded two revelations which said Michael is Adam on the earth. Both D. & C. 27:11, dated August 1830 and D. & C. 107:54, dated March 28, 1835 say that Adam is Michael. Even after Smith’s 1836 vision on September 6, 1842, he identified Michael as Adam in D. & C. 128:21. Smith could not see Adam and Michael as two different beings, as he wrote in his diary, IF Michael is Adam as stated in these “revelations”!
D. & C. 137 contains only about half of Smith’s 1836 vision as he recorded it in his diary. Why did only half of Smith’s 1836 vision in his diary become LDS “scripture”? The answer is obvious by the content that was left out. D. & C. 137:10 is the end of Smith’s vision in the D. & C. It says, “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” But in his diary Smith’s vision continued and the next words are: “I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept.” Later it says, “And I finally saw the Twelve Apostles in the celestial kingdom of God.”
The first Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church were chosen on February 14 and 15, 1835. Since Smith’s 1836 vision was on January 21, 1836, it was less than a year after that. Smith’s 1836 vision was referring to those Twelve Apostles. Smith said D. & C. 118 was received as a revelation on July 8, 1838 in which the Twelve Apostles were told to depart from Far West, MO on April 26, 1839 and “go over the great waters” (ocean) to preach their gospel. But by 1839, half of the original LDS Apostles had apostatized and the Mormons had been driven out of Far West, MO! Three of the original Twelve Apostles and a few other LDS slipped back into Far West for a few hours on April 26, 1839, to try to fulfill the prophecy in D. & C. 118. Those three and Parley Pratt plus four new Apostles ultimately did arrive in England by April 6, 1840, where they served missions until April 1841, according to the June 1987 Ensign. But that did not fulfill what D. & C. 118 said. Nor is there is any record of “The Twelve” LDS Apostles standing in a circle in England with Christ in the midst of them. Since half of the original LDS Apostles apostatized, it is highly unlikely they made it to the “celestial kingdom of God!”
Smith’s 1836 vision in his diary also says “I saw Elder McLellin in the south, standing on a hill surrounded by a vast multitude, preaching to them, and a lame man standing before him supported by his crutches; he threw them down at his word and leaped as a hart (deer), by the mighty power of God.” But “Elder McLellin” was one of the original Twelve Apostles who apostatized, so he never did what Smith said he saw in his vision! Smith’s 1836 vision in his diary also says, I saw Elder Brigham Young standing in a strange land, in the far south and west, in a desert place, upon a rock in the midst of about a dozen men of color, who appeared hostile. He was preaching to them in their own tongue…” There is no record of Brigham Young doing that. If he had done that, it would still be one of the favorite stories told by Mormons!
The D. & C. version of Smith’s vision raise some valid questions: 1. Did God reveal what Smith originally wrote in his diary? If so, why was it changed? 2. Did Smith fail to record accurately what God revealed? If so, can his other revelations be trusted? 3. Did God give a defective vision to Smith? If so, why did God wait 140 years to change it? 4. Why don’t LDS leaders explain why D. & C. 137 was changed and state who God inspired to make the changes?