Scholars at the Joseph Smith Papers propose what might have been included in the Book of Commandments if the printing office had not been destroyed by a mob.
In July 1833, vigilantes razed William Phelps’s home where he was printing copies of Joseph Smith’s revelations that were then known as the Book of Commandments. Despite the mob’s efforts, many of the pages were saved thanks to brave Church members. Later, these revelations would be included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The first five gatherings of the original book (that is, five large sheets that were folded into groups of individual pages) were salvaged, but for many years it was uncertain which additional revelations William W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery, and Peter Whitmer were going to include in the finished book. With the help of other historical documents, historians at the Joseph Smith Papers have a good idea of what was intended to be included in the first Book of Commandments.
In an appendix of the Joseph Smith Papers, the editors propose a sixth gathering of the Book of Commandments. This text is not a transcript of any existing documents; instead, it is constructed from evidence in Revelation Book 1, which clearly shows that other revelations were lined up to be printed but never made it to press. The article presents what would possibly have been included in the Book of Commandments had the printing office not been attacked.
One of the interesting documents that the editors suggest would have been incorporated into Revelation Book 1 was a “testimony of the witnesses to the Book of the Lord’s commandments,” something similar to the Book of Mormon’s Testimony of Three Witnesses. Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, and Parley Pratt were three of the 18 men who signed their names to the testimony of the Book of Commandments, saying that these revelations came from God and would profit the children of men.
Even though some of the intended pages were not included in the Book of Commandments, most were included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, so they also appear in today’s edition. The Doctrine and Covenants was inspired by God and brought about through much sacrifice for our benefit.
See the historical introduction to “Proposed Sixth Gathering of the Book of Commandments” in the Joseph Smith Papers collection.
Source: The Joseph Smith Papers
—Bryn Larson, Mormon Insights
Find more insights
Read this article by Melvin J. Petersen to see a comparison of the Book of Commandments and the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
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