D&C 133: A Case Study in Revelation

I think we have the impression that prophets sit down and dictate or write down their revelations straight from the mouth or mind of God.  They are channels to the divine.  God’s ventriloquist dummies, if you will.  I suppose that sometimes could be the case, but more often than not, “revelation,” or what we call “revelation,” is a process.  For example, we know the Hebrew Bible was subject to 1,000 years of editing and revising and didn’t it reach its current form until sometime after the 200 BC.   Genesis 1, presumed for centuries to be written by Moses himself, was actually written sometime around ~600 BC (maybe sooner, maybe later) by the Priestly source and later placed at the beginning by a post-Exilic redactor.  For millennia it was presumed that Moses wrote the entire Torah, but never we never read “I, Moses.” (How does Moses write about his own death? And does the world’s humblest man write that he’s the world’s humblest man?)

Isaiah likely had three different writers or sources (1-39, 40-55, 56-66), with Trito-Isaiah making editorial changes to Proto-Isaiah.  Zechariah definitely had two authors (1-8 and 9-14).  The Book of Jeremiah in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) is seven chapters shorter and in a different order than the Masoretic text. (Which one is accurate? We may never know.) There are too many instances to list here, but you get the idea: scripture is a messy business.   Yet, despite ample textual evidence that the Hebrew Bible (as well as the New Testament books) has been significantly edited, millions of people still believe the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant “Word of God.”  (A claim it doesn’t make for itself, by the way.  And for what it’s worth, neither does the Book of Mormon.)

I think we view Joseph Smith’s revelations the same way we view those of the Hebrew prophets:  Joseph sat down, dictated a revelation straight from God’s lips.  No interference.  Joseph Smith’s revelations, however, also underwent substantial editing as circumstances changed.  I don’t think most Latter-Day Saints are aware of the extent of those changes not only to the revelations, but to patriarchal blessings.  The editors of the Joseph Smith Papers note,

“Many of JS’s early revelations underwent significant updating and expansion in order to suit rapidly changing circumstances after the organization of the Church of Christ in 1830, so the inclusion of the 1835 version of revelations into a narrative covering events before 1835 introduced numerous anachronisms.”

Not only anachronisms, but doctrinal and theological changes, too.  This brings up a slew of questions.  If revelation can be modified, is it really the “word of God?” I assume an omniscient God would foresee “rapidly changing circumstances” and reveal accordingly.  If, however, man changes or revises “revelation,” can it still be considered revelation?  Is revelation a cooperative and collaborative work of God and man?  Do “prophets” have the right to speak their own opinion as “mouthpieces” of God? Or maybe we just need to adjust our understanding of “revelation.”

Having spent considerable time studying, reviewing and deconstructing Joseph’s revelations over the last two years, I’m of the opinion that the overwhelming majority of Joseph’s revelations are not “revelations from God,” but rather the products of Joseph’s own mind.  (There’s no question in my mind that the Books of Abraham and Moses fall into this category.)  I do believe, however, that he believed they were revelations–that his thoughts, impressions and inspiration were divinely inspired in his role of “prophet.”

In this post we’re going to examine D&C 133, one of the earlier revelations, line by line and see if we can determine how Joseph Smith constructed his revelations and what they reveal about the religious culture of his day.  For lack of a better term, 133 is a Frankenstein’s Monster that draws heavily from apocalyptic literature of the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament. (The overwhelming majority of the revelations I’ve examined follow this pattern.) It’s a really fascinating window into the religious zeitgeist of 1830s New York.  With that said, get comfortable, because we’re going to be here for a good while.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT 

D&C 133 is an important revelation.  Susan Easton Black writes,

“Near the close of the elders’ conference on November 3, 1831, Joseph Smith learned that ‘there were many things which the Elders desired to know relative to preaching the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, and concerning the gathering; and in order to walk by the true light, and be instructed from on high.’ The prophet ‘inquired of the Lord and received the … important revelation, which has since been added to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and called the Appendix” (D&C 133). This revelation was intended as an addendum or appendix to the revelations printed in the Book of Commandments.  The preface and the addendum were to be bookends. Elder John A. Widtsoe explained, “The ‘Appendix’ supplements the introduction” [D&C 1].”

I may have stated it before, but if we wish to understand Joseph Smith’s revelations, we have to plant him firmly in the Millennialist worldview he was born into,

“Central to the Second Great Awakening was a renewed belief in millennialism-the view that the Second Coming of Christ was near at hand. The spread of democracy and the growth of material and commercial progress reinforced the belief that “history was moving in the right direction.” The evangelicals maintained that America had a unique role to play in the spread of Christianity and in the coming of the millennium. The evangelical movement identified the United States as “God’s new Israel.‘ A central goal of the Second Great Awakening was “to make America the world’s greatest example” of a truly Christian nation…By the late 1820s, western New York was the area in which the evangelical revivals had achieved their greatest intensity.” (“The Second Great Awakening: A Christian Nation?” Geoffrey R. Stone, 2010, emphasis added.)

Joseph Smith and the early Saints were part of this movement.  They believed Jesus was coming and He was coming soon.  His coming would be preceded by cataclysmic wars and environmental catastrophes.  (See D&C 45.) An earlier revelation stated that “the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble.” (D&C 29:7-9, Sept. 1830.) The righteous, therefore, needed to be gathered into “one place” (D&C 29:8) for safety and protection.  A February 1831 revelation declared that the Elders were to go out and “labor ye in my vineyard for the last time—for the last time call upon the inhabitants of the earth. For in mine own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment.” (D&C 43:28-29)

Six months prior to the 1831 Elders’ Conference, the gathering place was revealed to be Independence, MO and was christened “Zion.” (D&C 57). 133 is the call to the Elders of the church gather the Gentiles in Zion (Independence) to welcome Christ at His Second Coming (“Go out and meet the Bridegroom”).  It’s not written to us in the year 2022.  We risk much when we try to dislodge the revelations, authentic or otherwise, and relocate them 200 years into the future.

With that said, let’s take a deep dive into D&C 133.  To help break it down, I’ve color coded the passages:

Blue – citations, references and allusions to the Bible. I think I got them all, but may have missed a few
Green – Joseph’s interpolations in Isaiah
Red – my commentary

Why did he take this approach of borrowing so liberally from the Bible? (He rarely, if ever, cites the Book of Mormon.)  I have a theory, but I’ll save it for the end if you care to read that far.

D&C 133 AS IT APPEARS IN THE CURRENT D&C

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Hiram, Ohio, November 3, 1831. Prefacing this revelation, Joseph Smith’s history states, “At this time there were many things which the Elders desired to know relative to preaching the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, and concerning the gathering; and in order to walk by the true light, and be instructed from on high, on the 3rd of November 1831.

Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the Lord your God, and hear the word of the Lord concerning you

This is directed at Elders at the conference in 1831.

The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple (Malachi 3:1); the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment (Isaiah 34:5), Joseph substituted “Idumea,” a.k.a. “Edom,” with “world”); yea, upon all the nations that forget God (Psalms 9:17), and upon all the ungodly among you. (Jude 1:15) For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God. (Isaiah 52:10) Wherefore, prepare ye, prepare ye, O my people (Isaiah 40:1, “comfort ye, comfort ye, ye my people“); sanctify yourselves; gather ye together, (Joel 1:14, Joel 2:16) O ye people of my church, upon the land of Zion (Independence MO), all you that have not been commanded to tarry. Go ye out from Babylon (Isaiah 48:20). Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Isaiah 52:11) Call your solemn assemblies, and speak often one to another. (Joel 1:14) And let every man call upon the name of the Lord. (Romans 10:13)

Yea , verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you:

Again, “you” is the Elders in attendance.

Go ye out of Babylon (Isaiah 48:20); gather ye out from among the nations (Ezekiel 36:24), from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31) Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews (Romans 1:16). And behold, and lo, this shall be their cry, and the voice of the Lord unto all people: Go ye forth unto the land of Zion (Zion is synonymous with Jerusalem in Isaiah (33:20), but in this instance Zion is Independence, MO), that the borders of my people may be enlarged (Exodus 34:24), and that her stakes may be strengthened (Isaiah 54:2), and that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about.

Here is the call to gather the righteous to “one place,” with a vision of the Zion’s borders expanding.  This is in preparation for the Second Coming:

Yea , let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matthew 25:13) Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:31) Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion (Independence, MO). And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem (Mark 13:14), unto the mountains of the Lord’s house. (Isaiah 2:2In modern Mormonism, the “mountain of the Lord’s house” references the Salt Lake City Temple. There is also allusion to the “Desolation of Abomination” mentioned in Mark 13:14, “then let them that be in Judæa flee to the mountains:” In context, the “Desolation of Abomination” refers to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, not a future event.) Go ye out from among the nations (Matthew 28:19), even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness (Psalms 55:11), which is spiritual Babylon.

Many have suggested that Zion failed because the Saints didn’t qualify.  I don’t believe that’s the case.  We’ll go into this deeper in an upcoming post on “The One Might Strong,” but in D&C 124 Joseph lays the blame for Zion’s failure on the Missourians, not the Saints.  Further, the impetus for gathering to Zion was the Second Coming.  Later in this revelation, Joseph writes that Jesus will stand on the mountains, the sea, and the Land of Zion.  This is a worldwide event, not a localized one with a few thousand Saints.

But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste (Isaiah 52:12), but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him. (An allusion to Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26) Hearken and hear, O ye inhabitants of the earth. Listen, ye elders (then living) of my church together, and hear the voice of the Lord; for he calleth upon all men, and he commandeth all men everywhere to repent.

Here’s where things begin to take a very interesting and strange turn.

For behold, the Lord God hath sent forth the angel crying through the midst of heaven, (Revelation 8:13, “flying” is replaced with “crying”) saying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, for the hour of his coming is nigh– (Isaiah 40:3, Mark 1:3) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3-5).

The “angel” of Revelation drops his original lines—“Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!”—and cites Isaiah instead.  That’s very strange.

Further complicating things, the original Greek of Revelation 8:13 reads “eagle” (ἀετοῦ) instead of “angel.” The Jamieson-Fausett-Brown commentary reads: “A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read for “angel,” which is supported by none of the oldest manuscripts, “an eagle”: the symbol of judgment descending fatally from on high; the king of birds pouncing on the prey.”

Only the KJV and the NKJV use “angel.”  All modern English translations correct the error.  For example, the ESV reads: “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

When the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1. According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus is The Father.) Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom; go ye, go ye out to meet him. (Matthew 25:6) For behold, he shall stand upon the mount of Olivet (Zachariah 14:4), and upon the mighty ocean (Isaiah 43:16), even the great deep, and upon the islands of the sea (Isaiah 51:10) and upon the land of Zion (Independence, MO).

Zachariah 14 has long been used as a proof text for premillennialism, or the idea that Christ returns (the “Second Coming”) to inaugurate the Millennium. There’s some difficulty with this reading.  Zechariah 9-14, as previously mentioned, is written by a different author, but ascribed to Zechariah. Chapter 14 is a difficult chapter.  Luther wrote, “Here, in this chapter, I give up. For I am not sure what the prophet is talking about.”  I don’t either.  Such is the difficulty of apocalyptic literature.  Having said that, I don’t believe Zechariah II writing centuries before Christ envisions “the second coming” some 2,500 years later.  I view it conceptually–God has always fought Israel’s battles and always will.

And he shall utter his voice out of Zion (Independence, MO), and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people; (Joel 3:16) And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters (Ezekiel 43:2), and as the voice of a great thunder (Revelation 14:2) which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found. (Micah 1:4 the wording is different, but expresses the same idea: “And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.) He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land; And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion (Independence, MO) shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided. (Genesis 10:25, 1 Chronicles 1:13)

There’s an assumption built into Genesis 10:25 that it signifies a breaking up of one land mass into continents and islands. I went through a dozen or more commentaries and none of them offer this interpretation.  Our best clue for the meaning of “divided” may from Genesis 10:1-5:

“Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.”  (“Isles of the Gentiles” a very rough translation.  “Isles of the Gentiles” is more properly rendered “coastlands” or “maritime people.”)

Let’s make a small adjustment to Genesis 10:25,

“And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided among the inhabitants of the earth; and his brother’s name was Joktan.”

And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh. And they (the Lost Ten Tribes) who are in the north countries (An allusion to Jeremiah 15:16 and then in Jeremiah 23:8, which likely deals with the return from Exile.) shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves (Isaiah 48:2it may not sound like a unique phrase, but it only appears in Isaiah 48:2); and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.

There are a lot of really interesting things happening in this passage.  The main point is the recovery of the so-called “Lost Ten Tribes.”  We may also have allusion to two passages: Exodus 17:6 when Moses struck the rock and water flowed out of it; and Isaiah 48:21 who wrote of that event: “And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.” (see also Psalms 78:15) I think the implication here is that the “North Countries” are cold, and when the rocks are smitten it will be so cold that the water will turn to an ice flow?  I’m not really sure. If anyone has a better idea, I’m all ears.

D&C 110 also tells us the Lost Tribes are in the “north,”

“After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.”

In an 1835 letter to Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps wrote, “there may be a continent at the north pole, of more than 1300 square miles, containing thousands of millions of Israelites.”

In 1867, Orson Pratt followed suit, writing that the Lost Tribes “evidently had a highway made for them in the midst of the Arctic Ocean, and were lead to a land in the neighborhood of the North Pole.” 

Joseph Smith, Sr. gave Joseph a patriarchal blessing that reads in part,

“For, like Joseph of old shall he be: he shall save the just from desolation, by the wise counsel of the Almighty; for by his direction shall they gather into storehouses and barns, till they overflow with the richness of the fruit of harvest: and by this means shall the just be saved from famine, while the nations of the wicked are distressed and faint. In due time shall he go forth toward the north, and by the power of his word shall the deep begin to give way and the ice melt before the sun. By the keys of the Kingdom shall he lead Israel into the land of Zion…”

Needless to say, none of this happened.  And no, it’s not a future event.

And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep. (Isaiah 11:16: “And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt,” and Isaiah 62:10: “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.”)

Their enemies shall become a prey unto them (2 Kings 21:14), And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. (Isaiah 41:18Slighty reworded, but conveys the same message: “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”)

And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills (Genesis 49:26) shall tremble at their presence. (Joel 2:10) And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion (Independence, MO), by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim. And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy. (Isaiah 35:10)

Despite LDS teachings that the Joseph Smith and early Mormons were Ephraimites, we learn from the Book of Mormon that they are gentiles, or in other words, non-Israelites.  We’ll go into more detail on why the Saints believed they were Ephraimites in the upcoming “Ezekiel’s Sticks” post, but in essence, the Puritans who settled America saw themselves and modern Israelites reenacting the trek to the Promised Land and the America was a “New Jerusalem.”  The American Saints descended from the Puritans and inherited many of their cultural beliefs about the Bible.

Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim (The Saints) and his fellows. (see Deuteronomy 33:15-17)

And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever.

And now, verily saith the Lord, that these things might be known among you, O inhabitants of the earth, I have sent forth mine angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6), who hath appeared unto some and hath committed it unto man, (1 Corinthians 9:16-17) who shall appear unto many that dwell on the earth.

Regarding 1 Corinthians 9:16-17. Joseph is clearly drawing parallels between himself and Paul. “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”

However, anyone who is familiar with the KJV knows that italicized words do not appear in the original manuscripts. In this passage, “of the Gospel” is an addition by the KJV scribes.

The English Standard Version reads: “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.”

Futher, “dispensation” is a poor translation of the original Greek, “oikonomia,” which properly should be translated as “household management.” Joseph Smith—and many of his contemporaries—didn’t understand this. For Paul, there were two dispensations: pre-Christ and post-Christ. Nephi wrote that God would come “in the fulness of his own time.” (2 Nephi 11:7). The KJV translators wrote in the original 1611 Bible, “But when the fulnesse of time drew neere, that the Sunne of righteousnesse, the Sonne of God should come into the world, whom God ordeined to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood.

Lehi, Nephi, Paul and the KJV translators are all in agreement of “fulness of times.” Joseph Smith is the outlier.

And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. (Revelation 14:6)

And the servants of God shall go forth, saying with a loud voice: Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come; And worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters (Revelation 14:7In Revelation the “Angel” says this, not the “servants of God”) — Calling upon the name of the Lord day and night, saying:

More strange things happening here.  The “Servants of God” (the Elders at the Conference) recite a highly revised version of Isaiah 64, with verses 4 and 5 reversed. Joseph’s additions are in green and redactions are in blue. King James versification in parenthesis added for clarity.

“(1) O that thou wouldst rend the heavens,
that thou wouldst come down,
that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.

And it shall be answered upon their heads;
for the presence of the Lord shall be (2) as when the melting fire that burneth,
and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil.
O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries,
That the and all nations shall tremble at thy presence—

(3) When thou didst doest terrible things, things which we they look not for;
Yea, when thou camest comest down, and the mountains flowed down at thy presence,

(5) thou shalt meetest him that who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness,
those that who remembereth thee in thy ways.
behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned:
in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.

(4) For since the beginning of the world men have not men heard
nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen, O God,
besides thee, how great things thou hath hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee him.

We have another, lengthy passage—this time from Isaiah 63 (Third Isaiah) with First Isaiah added in.  I’m also not sure where “And it shall be said” ends.

And it shall be said: (1) Who is this that cometh from Edom
down from God in heaven with dyed garments, from Borza yea, from regions which are not known
This that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength—
And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness, mighty to save

(2) And the Lord shall be Wherefore art thou in red in thine his apparel
and thy his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat. (This is recast from a question to a declarative)

And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame (Isaiah 24:3)
and the moon shall withhold its light (Isaiah 60:19)
and the stars shall be hurled from their places. (Isaiah 34:4, Matthew 24:29)

And his voice shall be heard: (3) I have trodden the wine-press alone
and have brought judgment upon all people and of people there none were with me.
And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, (order reversed)
and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments,
And I will staineded all my raiment;

(4) for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.
And now the year of my redeemed is come;

Verses 5 and 6 are omitted.

(7) and they shall mention the loving kindness of the their Lord,
and the praises of the Lord, according to and all that he has bestowed upon us them
according to his great goodness towards the house of Israel,
Which he has bestowed on them according to his mercies,
and according to the multitude of his loving kindness, forever and ever

Verse 8 is omitted.

(9) In all their afflictions he was afflicted.
And the angel of his presence saved them;
and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them,
and he bare bore them, and carried them all the days of old.

The Isaiah citation ends here, but the revelation continues.

Yea, and Enoch also, and they who were with him; the prophets who were before him; and Noah also, and they who were before him; and Moses also, and they who were before him; And from Moses to Elijah, and from Elijah to John, who were with Christ in his resurrection, and the holy apostles, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shall be in the presence of the Lamb.

And the graves of the saints shall be opened (Matthew 27:52); and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1), and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever.

I think the “And it shall be said” might end here.  References to Christ and the Lamb aren’t in the first person.  If Jesus were speaking, it would read “from Elijah to John, who were with me in my resurrection” and “when I shall stand on Mount Zion.”  At the beginning of this revelations, God speaks in the first person, but from this point forward, we shift to statements about Jesus rather than by Jesus.  

And for this cause, that men might be made partakers (1 Colossians 1:2) of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fulness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity—to prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth, and for the Lord’s errand in the day when the weak shall confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), and the little one become a strong nation (Isaiah 60:22), and two shall put their tens of thousands to flight. (Deuteronomy 33:20).

And by the weak things of the earth (1 Corinthians 1:27) the Lord shall thresh the nations (Habakkuk 3:12) by the power of his Spirit. And for this cause these commandments were given (which commandments are we referring to?); they were commanded to be kept from the world in the day that they were given, but now are to go forth unto all flesh—And this according to the mind and will of the Lord, who ruleth over all flesh.

Which commandments were kept from the world? Why would God give commandments and keep them from people? Why did the go forth in 1831 and not before?  I don’t know what this means.

And unto him that repenteth and sanctifieth himself before the Lord shall be given eternal life. And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people.

What does “cut off from the people” mean?  Execution. Death penalty.  Examples:

“Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.  (Exodus 31:14-15)

“For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.” (Leviticus 23:29-30)

I suppose this has to do with the “burning” at the “Second Coming” that didn’t happen…

And also that which was written by the prophet Malachi: (Malachi 4:1) For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Why do we suddenly have an attribution when the previous references do not?  

Wherefore, this shall be the answer of the Lord unto them: In that day when I came unto mine own, no man among you received me (John 1:11, recast from third to first person), and you were driven out. When I called again there was none of you to answer (Isaiah 50:2 – “When I called, was there none to answer) yet my arm was not shortened at all that I could not redeem, (Isaiah 59:1, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save”) neither my power to deliver.

Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink, and die for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and make sackcloth their covering. (Isaiah 50:2-3) And this shall ye have of my hand-ye shall lie down in sorrow. (Isaiah 50:11)

Behold, and lo, there are none to deliver you (Psalm 50:22); for ye obeyed not my voice when I called to you out of the heavens (Genesis 22:5 this may be a stretch: And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time.) ye believed not my servants, and when they were sent unto you ye received them not.

Wherefore, they sealed up the testimony and bound up the law (Isaiah 8:6, re-ordered“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples”) and ye were delivered over unto darkness (Perhaps an allusion to Colossians 1:13). These shall go away into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:12)

Behold the Lord your God hath spoken it. Amen.

CONCLUSION

If Joseph Smith dictated this, it’s extremely impressive.  He’s managed to take dozens upon dozens of scriptural passages and form a coherent narrative out of them.  It’s pretty remarkable.  I don’t think he did dictate this off the top of his head.  I suspect he sat down at wrote it, probably overnight, and it seems there are times he’s trying to hide the fact he’s borrowed so liberally from the Bible, particularly in the Isaiah 63 and 64 portions.  Why else would he reverse these two chapters, redact parts of them and inject new text into them?  It sure sounds authoritative, but when we break it down, we can see it for what it is: a Frankenstein’s Monster, a scriptural chimera.  There’s very little original material in it.  Not that there has to be, but we should be careful about calling it a “revelation.”  I don’t think it’s a stretch to call it a “construction.”

Why did he do it?  My theory is this.  In November 1831 Joseph Smith was 25 years old.  He was a young man full of fire and passion living in an apocalyptic culture.  Joseph was thrust into the role of “prophet” (perhaps by his own doing) and had hundreds of people, then thousands, hanging on his every word.  If you are a prophet, you have to produce. In Joseph’s case, the product was revelation.  Between 1831-1836, that revelation was largedly about Missouri, the gathering, the redemption of Zion and the Second Coming.  Other revelations are doctrinal (76, 84, 88, 107) and the rest are occasional, meaning they are specific to certain occasions.  If there was a conflict, quarrel or question, a revelation was provided.  Who can disupte the word of God? The Saints asked for revelation, and revelation they got.  But if you’re calling is to translate the Book of Mormon and “pretend to no other gift,” (Book of Commandments 4, 1833, later revised for the 1835 D&C) your revelations are likely going to have some problems.

Looking back through those revelations and seeing the number of edits, redactions, additions, contradictions, questionable theology, strange voice shifts, conflicts with the Book of Mormon and failed prophecies, there little doubt in my mind the vast majority of them aren’t inspired or given by God.   One of the biggest issues for me is that Joseph seemingly backed away from his belief in the imminence of the Second Coming by the Nauvoo period.  What do we do, then, with the many, many revelations that declare “the hour is nigh?”  Each has to decide for him or herself, I suppose.

The years of 1831-1836 were highly productive in terms of revelation, but by the end of the Kirtland period, they slowed to crawl.  By Nauvoo they had dried up.  The trials and stresses of Missouri coupled family losses and community turmoil undoubtedly took a toll mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Probably more than we know.  Nauvoo Joseph is a different man from Hiram, OH, Joseph. On this point I’m sympathetic. He went through severe trials.  Some of it self-inflicted, but a lot of it not.

Over the last 189 years millions of people have lived and governed their lives based on Joseph Smith’s revelations.  We have an obligation to determine if they are authentic or not.  Their inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants is no guarantee they are.  I don’t think we should shy away from challenging or questioning them because Joseph Smith was a man, a flawed man.  We all are.  And there’s that whole thing about not trusting in the “arm of flesh.” Joseph Smith can have prophetic insight and still get things wrong.  And he got a lot wrong.  It’s ok.  Our faith and trust should be in Christ, not Joseph Smith, the Bible or even the Book of Mormon.

In the end, all I know is that 133 declares in no uncertain terms that Jesus’ Second Coming was imminent, that the righteous Gentiles were to gather to Independence, that the wicked would burn up by fire, and that Jesus would dwell, at least part of time, in Independence as part of His Millennial Reign.

191 years later we’re still waiting.

3 thoughts on “D&C 133: A Case Study in Revelation

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  1. Regarding verses 23–27, Ezra Booth provides a contemporary source that documents that Joseph Smith was teaching that the lost tribes of Israel were hidden somewhere near the north pole:

    “The condition of the ten tribes of Israel since their captivity, unto the present time, has excited considerable anxiety, and given rise to much speculation among the learned. But after all the researches which have been made, the place of their residence has never been satisfactorily ascertained. But these visionaries have discovered their place of residence to be contiguous to the north pole; separated from the rest of the world by impassable mountains of ice and snow. In this sequestered residence, they enjoy the society of Elijah the Prophet, and John the Revelator, and perhaps the three immortalized Nephites. — By and by, the mountains of ice and snow are to give way, and open a passage for the return of these tribes, to the land of Palestine.” Source: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ezra_Booth_letters#Oct_24

    It is notable that this particular letter was published in The Ohio Star only ten days BEFORE Smith dictated the revelation now contained in LDS D&C § 133. In fact, it would argue that D&C § 133 and several of the other revelations Smith dictated around this time are best understood as reactions to the public criticisms of Ezra Booth and his series of letters published around this time: https://tokensandsigns.org/revealing-the-revelations-a-reaction-to-ezra-booth/

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  2. Very interesting historical context to consider. It makes sense. Thank you for bringing it up. Indeed, it seems JS’s revelations often respond to contemporary issues. I don’t think that necessarily makes them authentic or “true” revelations, though. I think JS inserted a lot of his own ideas and cultural understanding of things into his revelations.

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  3. If I could get my students to critically analyze a text like you did with D&C 133, I would be out of a job. And interestingly, when I ask students to write a research paper, I emphasize, amongst other points, 2 points in particular: 1) cite your sources, (2) analysis consists of your own opinions NOT a bunch of quote from other authors strung together so you don’t have to prove your claim with your own ideas, as well (the sources are to support your claim and enhance your opinion). Joseph probably needed to hear that, too; however, I didn’t know D&C 133 had all those allusions to the Bible in it. Thus, Joseph got and gets away with it because his followers (then and now) didn’t know the Bible. (Maybe the people in Joseph’s day knew the Bible, but most LDS and Christians don’t seem to have a knowledgeable working of the Bible such that they can recognize allusions of specific verses pulled from various places in the Bible). Did the people of Joseph’s day know the Bible better then we do today? Do you know? Nicely done, and I like the comment the guy put on your website about the lost tribes living in the North Pole. I think the Lost Tribes might be Santa’s elves😁

    Sent from my iPhone

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