This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by James B. Allen. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
While the two volumes of the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers should intrigue anyone interested in Church history, those particularly interested in the textual history of the Doctrine and Covenants will find them an absolute treasure. Volume 1 consists of verbatim transcriptions of the manuscript books known as Revelation Book 1 and Revelation Book 2, which contain nearly all of Joseph Smith's revelations from July 1828 to November 25, 1834 (covering today's Doctrine and Covenants 3 through 106). Most of the revelations featured in volume 1 are the earliest extant copies, meaning they are the versions closest to the original transcriptions.
Volume 2 reproduces all of the early published versions of the revelations, including those in the 1833 Book of Commandments (only partially complete because an anti–Mormon mob destroyed the Church's press in Missouri before the printing was finished), The Evening and the Morning Star, and the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Volume 2 also includes the new items that were added to the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, as well as transcripts of the additional revelations that were intended to be printed in the Book of Commandments. The volume is the perfect companion to volume 1 because, as the editors observe, "together these two volumes provide the most important primary sources needed to study the revelation texts and their development during Joseph Smith's lifetime" (xx).
These volumes make it possible to trace changes in the revelation texts, from their early transcriptions to their eventual publication. However, as the editors of volume 2 point out, users of this volume should also consult the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers, where the earliest extant versions of the revelations are published and arranged in chronological order, with historical introductions for each revelation as well as important textual annotation not included in either of these two volumes.