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Historical Perspectives on the Kirtland Revelation Book

TitleHistorical Perspectives on the Kirtland Revelation Book
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsTvedtnes, John A.
EditorRicks, Stephen D., Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges
Book TitleThe Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson
PublisherFoundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
CityProvo, UT
KeywordsKirtland, Ohio; Recordkeeping; Revelation

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Historical Perspectives on the Kirtland Revelation Book

John A. Tvedtnes

In the LDS Church Archives is a manuscript record from the Kirtland era that is labeled Kirtland Revelations on the spine and Book of Revelations on the cover. However, it has come to be known as the Kirtland Revelation Book (KRB). It contains some 50 entries, 48 of them revelations.1 Of these, 44 are in the Doctrine and Covenants.2 For the most part, clear separators, consisting of lines or lines and strokes going across the entire page between two entries, separate the text. Exceptions occur when one entry ends at the bottom of a page and the next begins at the top of the following page. Corrections and notations to some of the revelations were subsequently added in Joseph Smith’s handwriting. A later, smaller hand has written the relevant Doctrine and Covenants section numbers in the upper left-hand corner of most of the revelations (here noted with section numbers from the 1981 edition).

The notation To go into the covenants was added at the beginning of two of the revelations, Doctrine and Covenants 84 (p. 20) and 86 (p. 31). This evidently refers to the intention to include these revelations in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, where they became sections 4 and 6, respectively.3 It is surprising that the same notation was not added at the beginning of other revelations in the KRB. Scott Faulring has suggested that the KRB was used as a “printer’s manuscript” for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.4 Such a possibility is made plausible by the fact that all but three of the revelations recorded in the KRB were published in 1835.5 Another evidence for this is that the KRB has a later notation added to the revelation on pages 60–61 (D&C 96) that became the heading for the revelation in the 1835 edition. The note is in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, who helped prepare that edition.6

The KRB has great importance for studying the physical preservation and textual development of the written revelations of Joseph Smith. Here, however, we shall concern ourselves with the implications of the book as a source for the revelations contained therein. Two questions readily present themselves: (1) During what time period were revelations actually recorded in the book, and (2) were any of the revelations originally recorded in the book, as opposed to being copied from earlier documents?

I believe that we can give at least partial answers to these questions to enlighten us on a number of issues. For example, some revelations have been assigned more than one date in different documents. In some cases, the KRB can help us determine the actual date a given revelation was received. This, along with information on which scribe recorded the revelation in the KRB,7 can shed light on when the entry was made.

A manuscript table of contents (some call it an index) at the beginning of the book lists the page on which each revelation begins and, for some entries, the date it was received. This index lists the revelations down to page 31. This is followed by an indented entry for page 33, which actually describes the revelation (D&C 87) that begins on page 32. The entries for the two revelations that became Doctrine and Covenants 88 were later added to the list but inserted in the wrong position. Thus the entry for Doctrine and Covenants 88:1–126, which begins on page 33, was squeezed into the table of contents between the listings for pages 19 and 20, while the entry for Doctrine and Covenants 88:127–37, which begins on page 47, is squeezed into the listings for pages 18 and 19. The reason for this inconsistency is unclear.

The contents page had evidently been deliberately left blank to accommodate entries as revelations were added to the KRB. There is no consistency in the page number entries in the contents. The first, for example, reads “Page first.” The three entries for pages 10–11 are all preceded by “P,” while the rest have only the page number.

KRB Entries

The table on pages 410–18 lists the date, pages, current Doctrine and Covenants section number, scribal hand, and notes associated with each of the KRB entries, including those found in the table of contents. The dates given on the contents page sometimes contradict the dates given at the beginning of the revelations themselves. I have noted in parentheses where they differ. Where either date differs from the one given in the current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the latter date is indicated in square brackets. Written text that was crossed out in the KRB is noted; the use of < > indicates an editorial correction made shortly after it was originally written, and [ ] indicates an expansion of an abbreviation. Initials for the scribes are as follows: FGW = Frederick G. Williams, JS = Joseph Smith, OH = Orson Hyde, OC = Oliver Cowdery, NI = not identified.

Table 1. Entries in the Kirtland Revelation Book






16 Feb 1832




Contents: “The Vision of Joseph and Sidney”

At beginning: “The Vision”

At end: “Sidney Rigdon/Joseph Smith Jr.,” in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams

Many above-line additions and corrections in a different hand

27 Feb 1832



Contents: “A Revelation to Lincoln Hasskins”

“X”ed out, probably to exclude from publication because Hasskins left the church.

8 Mar 1832



Contents: “Ordination of Jesse Gause & his call to be councellor”

Ordination of Sidney Rigdon and Jesse Gause as counselors, beginning “chose this day & ordained.” 9

1 Dec 1832 [31] (contents: 1832)




Contents: “A commandment to Joseph and Sidney to go into the world and call upon the people to repent” (supralinear and warn the people)-

12 Mar 1832




Contents: “A Revelation to Jared Carter”

At beginning: “A revelation given to Jared Carter”

7 Mar 1831 (contents: 7 Mar 18312 )




Contents: “A Revelation to John Whitmer calling him to be a hystorian to the church”

4 Dec 1831




Contents: “A Revelation given to choose a Bishop. N. K. Whitney was chosen & was sanctioned by the Lord and also another in addition to the law making known the duty of the Bishop.” Beginning with “and also,” this entry describes the revelation that follows (see D&C 72:9), with which it was combined to form D&C 72.

4 Dec 1831




For the contents description, see the previous revelation.

1 Mar 1832




Contents: “A Revelation given for Sidney Joseph & Newel to go an[d] sit in council with the elders in Zion”

Several corrections

15 Mar 1832




Contents: “Revelation to Jesse Gauze”

In text, “Jesse” crossed out, supralinear “Frederick G. Williams added (verse 1)

7 Mar 1832




Contents: “Revelation to Stephen Burnett”

20 Mar 1832



Contents: “A commandment to Joseph Sidney & Newel to purchase pa-per and omit translating for the present time” “X”ed out

29 Aug 1832




Contents: “Revelation to John Murdock”

At end: “by Joseph the seer—and writen by—F. G. Williams Scribe”

22–23 Sep 1832




“Revelation given to six Elders Sept 22 & 23d of 1832 explaining the two priesthoods and commissioning the Apostles to preach the gospel”

Note added at beginning: “To go into the covenants”

At end: “F. G. Williams Scribe.”

A few corrections

A break in the KRB between what now constitute verses 102 and 103 seems to denote two parts to the revelation.10

6 Dec 1832




Note added at beginning: “To go into the covenants”

At beginning and in contents: “A Revelation explaining the parable of the wheat & tears [sic]” (on p. 31, where supralinear “the” was added before “tears”)

At end: “Kirtland December 6th AD 1832 given by Joseph the seer and writen by Sidney the scribe and Councellor & Transcribed by Frederick assistant scribe and councellor”

25 Dec 1832




Contents: “Prophecy given Dec 25 – 1832 concerning concerning the wars”

At beginning: “A Propecy given Decm 25th 1832”

At end: “Given by Joseph the Seer written by F G Williams”

27 Dec 1832




Squeezed into contents between entries for pages 19 and 20: “A Rev given to the first Elders &c”

At beginning: “A Revelation given the first Elders of this Church of Christ in the last days Dec 27th 1832,” with supralinear “to” later inserted after “given”

At end: “Given by Joseph the seer and writen by F. G. Williams assistan scribe and councellor to s[ai]d Joseph”

A number of corrections

3 Jan 1833




Squeezed into contents between entries for pages 18 and 19: “A Revelation giving instructions how to regulate the Elders school”

At beginning: “Revelation given to organize for a pattern” At end: “Given by Joseph the seer and writen by Frederick assistant scribe and Councellor”

27 Feb 1833



At beginning: “Sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated”

27 Feb 1833




At beginning: “A Revelation for the benefit of the saints &c”

8 Mar 1833




At end: “Geven by Joseph the seer and writen by Frederick Councellor & Scribe”

An asterisk is inserted on p. 54 at the end of what became verse 28 and, after end “scribe” notation, what now constitute verse 29 and the first half of verse 30 (to the word “Zion”) has been added, probably in hand of FGW.

9 Mar 1833




At beginning: “A Revelation given concerning Apocrypha”

15 Mar 1833




A few corrections

6 May 1833




A few corrections

1 Jun 1833




A few corrections

4 Jun 1833




A scrap of paper was added between pages 60 and 61, with the notation, “Revelation given Enoch showing the order of the city or stake of Zion, Shinehah, given for a sample to the saints in Kirtland June 1833,” in the hand of OC.11

A few corrections

2 Aug 1833




At beginning: “The word of the Lord unto Joseph Sidney and Frederick”

A few corrections

2 Aug 1833




Note squeezed in at end in different hand: “These two houses are not to be built till I give you a commandment concerning them.”

6 Aug 1833




After an aborted attempt to add omitted text on page 69 (the latter part of verse 29 and all of verse 30), an asterisk was inserted after the words “fourth generation” in what now constitutes verse 29. The missing text to be inserted at this point was written on a scrap of paper that was added to the KRB between pages 68 and 69, in an unidentified hand.

A few corrections

12 Oct 1833




At beginning: “A Revelation to Joseph and Sidney given them while on their journey to Canada, according to direction of the Spirit”

Some corrections

[16 Dec 1833]




A few corrections

Oct 1830




At beginning: “Revelation to Parley Pratt to go to the wilderness”

Nov 1831


107:59–92, 99–100


At beginning: “Revelation given November 1831 Cuyahoga Co Ohio regulating the Presidency of the Church”

Between what now constitute verses 84 and 85, no real break is shown, but a new paragraph begins.

30 Oct 1831





20 May 1831




At beginning, “May” was written over an original “August”

20 July 1831




At beginning: “Revelation given in independence July th 20 1831 shewing that to be the place of the city of Zion and the gathering”

May 1831



At beginning: “Revelation given May 1831 in Kirtland concerning the farm owned by Frederick and also concerning Joseph & Ezra”

30 Apr 1832




One correction

4 Feb 1831




At beginning: “A Commandment given February 4th, 1831 to choose A Bishop &c”

[Jan 1832]




At beginning: “An explanation of the 14th verse of the 7 chap. of the first corinthians”

[25] Oct 1831




At beginning: “Rev To Wm E. McLelin”

At end: “A Revelation given to William E McLelin a true descendant from Joseph that was sold into Egypt down through the loins of Ephraim his son”

22 June 1834




A few corrections

23 Apr 1834




At beginning: “Revelation given April 23d – 1834 appointing to each member of the united firm their Stewardship”

At end: “Recorded by O. Hyde 18 Augt. 1834 upon this Book”

A few corrections

24 Feb 1834




At end: “Recorded on this book by O. Hyde 18 Augt 1834”

A few corrections

28 Apr 1834



At end: “Recorded on this book by O. Hyde 27 Augt. 1834”

17 Feb 1834




At beginning: “To go into the covenants”

At end: “Orson Hyde / Oliver Cowdery } Clerks”

A few corrections

25 Nov 1834




A few corrections

[Jan 1832]




At beginning: “An explanation of the 14 verse of the 7th chapt of first Corinthians”

23 Feb 1831




Half page left blank at end; very unusual for the KRB

[June 1829]




At beginning: “A Revelation to Oliver David & Martin Given Fayett, Seneca Co. New York given previous to them having a view of the plates &c.” The last names of the three men have been added supralinearly.

A few corrections

The Scribal Evidence

In order to determine when the Kirtland Revelation Book was begun and which (if any) of its entries were made at the time of the revelation (rather than copied from earlier documents), we must examine the scribal clues in the book.

1. The first entry (p. 1) is dated 16 February 1832, so the book cannot have been started before that time. Since the handwriting is that of Frederick G. Williams, the book must have come into use after he became a scribe to Joseph Smith on 20 July 1832.12

2. The revelation on pages 17–18 was originally addressed to Jesse Gause, whose name has been crossed out in the KRB, and substituted by that of Frederick G. Williams. It is likely that this was written into the KRB before Gause was dropped as a counselor to Joseph Smith. The note on pages 10–11 concerns the ordination of Sidney Rigdon and Jesse Gause as counselors, though written in the hand of Frederick G. Williams. Gause was excommunicated in December 1832 and replaced by Frederick G. Williams.

3. A number of the revelations were written by “F. G. Williams,” which may imply that they were recorded in the KRB as Joseph Smith dictated them. These possibly contemporaneous entries are dated as follows:

29 August 1832

(pp. 19–20)

25 December 1832

(pp. 32–33)

27 December 1832

(pp. 33–46)

3 January 1833

(pp. 47–48)

8 March 1833

(pp. 51–55)

2 August 1833

(pp. 61–64)

Significantly, all these entries postdate Williams’s official call as scribe on 20 July 1832.13

4. The revelation of 29 August 1832 (pp. 19–20) is signed “F. G. Williams Scribe.” It is the first such notation in the KRB and belongs to the first revelation in the book received after Williams’s call as scribe on 20 July 1832. Consequently, it is quite likely a contemporary account.

5. At least one revelation (D&C 86), dated 6 December 1832 (pp. 31–32), appears to have been taken from dictation by Sidney Rigdon (“scribe and Councellor”) and then “transcribed by Frederick assistant scribe and councellor” in the KRB. It has usually been thought that, since Frederick G. Williams’s predecessor, Jesse Gause, was excommunicated in December 1832, Williams must have become Joseph Smith’s counselor in either December 1832 or January 1833. This need not be so, however; Gause may have been released even before his excommunication, when his apostasy began to be evident.

6. For the revelations of 6 December 1832 (pp. 31–32), 27 December 1832 (pp. 33–46), and 3 January 1833 (pp. 47– 48), Williams signed as “assistant scribe and councellor.”14 He may have already been a counselor to Joseph Smith by the time of these revelations, making them contemporaneous entries.

7. The revelation of 8 March 1833 (pp. 51–55) was written by “Frederick Councellor & Scribe.” This is, in fact, the revelation that confirmed his calling as a counselor (verse 6).

8. The revelations of May and June 1833 (pp. 56–61) are in the hand of Orson Hyde, while the revelation of 12 October 1833 (pp. 71–72) is in the hand of Oliver Cowdery. Significantly, on 6 June 1833, “a conference of High Priests assembled, and chose Orson Hyde a clerk to the Presidency of the High Priesthood,”15 so it is likely that the May–June revelations were copied into the KRB after that time. Frederick G. Williams had written all the other materials through the first part of page 97. Williams was listed in a First Presidency decision of 4 May16 and is thought to be the scribe in whose handwriting the revelation of 6 May (D&C 93) was written on a separate sheet of paper from which it may have been copied onto KRB, pages 56–59, by Orson Hyde.17

9. The revelation on pages 71–72, dated 12 October 1833, is in the hand of Oliver Cowdery, though pages 61–71 and 73–97 were written by Frederick G. Williams. Oliver arrived at Kirtland from Missouri on 9 August.18 On 11 September he met with Joseph, Frederick, Sidney, and Bishop Whitney in Kirtland.19 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had traveled to Canada on 5 October.20 Oliver had gone to New York on church business four days earlier.21 Joseph and Sidney returned to Kirtland on 4 November,22 so Oliver could not have recorded this revelation earlier than that date (see the note at the beginning of the entry). Frederick G. Williams appears to have been in town at the time, however, for on 10 October he wrote a letter to Zion from Kirtland.23 Though Orson Hyde had been appointed clerk to the Presidency on 6 June (and had written three of the revelations, in KRB, pp. 56–61), he had gone to Missouri, arriving there about 28 September.24 He did not return until 25 November 1833.25

10. The revelation on pages 97–100 is in the hand of Oliver Cowdery. It is preceded by a number of revelations (pp. 73–97) entered by Frederick G. Williams and is followed by four revelations (pp. 100–115) entered by Orson Hyde. The revelation written into the KRB by Oliver Cowdery had been revealed during the Zion’s Camp march on 22 June 1834 and was later entered into the record. Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams had been chosen clerks at the conference held 3 May,26 and Oliver was clerk at the council held in Kirtland on 11 August.27 He had remained in Kirtland with Sidney Rigdon when Joseph and Frederick went with Zion’s Camp to Missouri in early May.28 Since Joseph arrived in Kirtland about 1 August,29 the revelation could not have been recorded into the KRB before that time. It may have been written during the week of 21 August, when Frederick G. Williams was in Cleveland.30 Williams was not present for the council of 23 August, which was attended by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Orson Hyde.31

11. The revelations on pages 100–111 are in the hand of Orson Hyde and are followed by the minutes of the first high council meeting (pp. 111–15), also in the hand of Orson Hyde, though he and Oliver Cowdery are listed as “Clerks.” The revelation on page 116 is in the hand of Oliver Cowdery. From the wording at the end of each of the entries by Orson Hyde, it is clear that he was copying the revelations from another source. He dates his work to 18 and 27 August. Orson and Oliver were chosen clerks at the high council meeting of 30 August.32 They had also been clerks at the organization of the first high council on 17 February 1834,33 as noted at the end of the entry for Doctrine and Covenants 102 on page 115.

A Chronological Analysis

For purposes of historical analysis, we can divide the Kirtland Revelation Book as follows:

Pages 1–19a. Most of these revelations date to the period February–March 1832 (pp. 1–11a, 12b–13a, 15b–19a), while the rest are from the previous December (pp. 11b–12a, 13b–15a). As the KRB was begun, these apparently were added to the book from other (perhaps original) copies, possibly kept on single sheets. They were written after Frederick G. Williams had been appointed scribe to the Prophet Joseph Smith, though Joseph Smith’s hand is seen in some of the revelations. Joseph Smith, when introducing Doctrine and Covenants 79 (KRB, p. 12), indicated that Sidney Rigdon was his scribe. The revelations on pages 13–15 (D&C 72), received only three days later (4 December 1831), were probably originally recorded by Sidney as well. I suspect that the revelation on pages 1–10 (D&C 76), bearing, at the end, the names Sidney and Joseph34 (who received the vision, as noted in verse 11), was also originally recorded elsewhere by Rigdon.35

Pages 19b–83b. The revelations given between 29 August 1832 and 16 December 1833 are in chronological order and were hence probably recorded at the time they were received or shortly thereafter, except for the ones on pages 51–55 (D&C 90), 66–71 (D&C 98), and 71–72 (D&C 100), as explained below. With a few exceptions, all the revelations are in the hand of Frederick G. Williams. Orson Hyde wrote the entries of May and June 1833 (pp. 56–61a), while Oliver Cowdery was scribe for the revelation of 12 October 1833 (pp. 71b–72). The entry made by Oliver Cowdery is “a revelation to Joseph and Sidney given them while on their journey to Canada.” These two, along with Freeman Nickerson, left on their Canadian mission on 5 October 183336 and returned 1 November 1833.37 It is uncertain whether the revelation was actually recorded on 12 October38 or whether it was dictated after Joseph returned to Kirtland, but its inclusion in the KRB in the hand of Oliver Cowdery must postdate 1 November.

In addition to the chronological order of the revelations in this group, additional evidence implies that the KRB entries may be contemporary records. Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith lived in Hiram, Ohio, until they were attacked by a mob in the last days of March 1832, whereupon Sidney moved to Kirtland, then to nearby Chardon. On 1 April Joseph left for Missouri, with a detour to Wheeling, Virginia, to purchase paper for the church press in Zion.39 On his return, he settled in Kirtland “some time in June.”40 On 20 July Frederick G. Williams was called to be the Prophet’s scribe. Significantly, most of the revelations recorded on the first nineteen pages of the KRB were received in Hiram. Beginning with the revelation on page 20, through page 71, received during the period of September 1832 through August 1833, Kirtland is listed as the place of recording. Since Williams lived on a farm just outside Kirtland, he could readily have recorded these original revelations in the KRB or copied them into the KRB soon after their original dictation.41

A slight problem arises with the revelation on pages 19–20, which, according to the KRB, was received in Hiram on 29 August 1832. We have no record of Joseph returning to Hiram at this time, though he may have gone there to move his family to Kirtland. And since John Murdock, to whom the revelation is addressed, did not live in Hiram (his latest known residence being Orange, where the twins adopted by Joseph and Emma Smith were born), one wonders whether the revelation was actually given at Hiram. If so, then its inclusion in the KRB is probably not a contemporaneous record, since Frederick G. Williams lived near Kirtland.

For the revelation known as Doctrine and Covenants 84, recorded on pages 20–31, a clear break of a full line between what now constitute verses 102 (ending in “Amen”) and 103 (p. 29) is present. The words And again at the beginning of verse 103 are used throughout Joseph Smith’s revelations to mark places where the Lord gave him supplementary information to a previous revelation, usually the same day, after a break. That the whole was considered a single revelation is indicated by the fact that, for this revelation, no date or other heading appears before Doctrine and Covenants 84:103 and no division marker occurs until page 31. Since a note at the end of the revelation declares that it was “given by Joseph the seer and written by Sidney the scribe and Councellor and transcribed by Frederick assistant scribe and councellor,” it seems clear that what we have in the KRB is a copy, not an original. The second part of the revelation (verses 102–20) may have been on a separate sheet of paper, but Williams was told that it was supplementary to the earlier revelation. A similar phenomenon occurs for the revelation from Doctrine and Covenants 107, on pages 84–86. Between our current verses 84 and 85, no real break appears, but a new paragraph begins with the words And again.

Evidence indicates that the revelation (D&C 90) on pages 51–55 was copied into the KRB and did not originate with it. At the end of what became verse 28, an asterisk was inserted on page 54, and the text of what now constitute verse 29 and the first half of verse 30 (to the word Zion) was added in very small handwriting at the end of the revelation (p. 55). Since verse 28 ends with the word Zion, it seems clear that this is a case of homoioteleuton, in which, during copying, Williams’s eyes inadvertently jumped from the word Zion in what is now verse 28 to the same word in what is now verse 29, resulting in the inadvertent omission of the intervening words.

The same phenomenon is found in the revelation (D&C 98) on pages 66–71. After the words fourth generation in what became verse 29 (in the middle of page 69), the scribe’s eye skipped to these same words at the end of our verse 30 and wrote Nevertheless, the first word in verse 31. When the error was noted, an attempt to correct it on the page was made by first erasing nevertheless, then by beginning to add the missing words supralinearly. It soon became apparent that the space was inadequate to squeeze these in, so the added words were crossed out. In their place, a scrap of paper was attached to the KRB between pages 68 and 69 that supplied all the missing words beginning with I have delivered in verse 29 through nevertheless in verse 31. An asterisk in the original text refers us to the additional wording. Again, the scribal error and subsequent correction are evidence that the revelation was not written into the KRB from dictation.

Despite the three revelations that were clearly not original to the KRB, the chronological order of the revelations on pages 19b–83a suggests that they represent the time period (August 1832 through December 1833) during which the KRB was in active use as the book in which revelations were recorded as dictated by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Pages 83b–97a. After the end of 1833, a number of earlier revelations (mostly from 1830 and 1831) were added to the KRB in the hand of Frederick G. Williams. Two revelations within these pages (pp. 93a and 94a–95b) date from the early part of 1832, before the KRB was begun.

Pages 97b–116. The 1834 revelations are not in sequence, and all but the first and last (both in the hand of Oliver Cowdery) were recorded “[up]on this book” by Orson Hyde, during the month of August 1834, as he clearly confirms. They had probably been originally recorded on loose sheets and then transcribed into the KRB by Hyde. This is evidenced by the fact that, though these revelations date from February through June 1834, the KRB specifically states that three of them were recorded in the book during the month of August. This was the year of Zion’s Camp, which could explain why the revelations were not placed in the book at the time they were received or soon thereafter. This implies the KRB was not taken to Missouri by the Prophet and hence had to be updated when he returned to Kirtland. By this time, it would appear that Frederick G. Williams was no longer scribe to Joseph Smith.

Pages 117b–120. The last entries in the KRB are recordings of two revelations from 1831 and 1829, both received before the book was begun.


Robert J. Woodford wrote that “the non-consecutive order of the revelations in the book is an indication that this is not the original source for at least some of the revelations in it.”42 In fact, nineteen of the revelations, covering some 74 (62%) of the 120 pages in the KRB are in consecutive (chronological) order and recorded in the same scribal hand, that of Frederick G. Williams, who was, during that time period, Joseph Smith’s scribe.43 The fact that these are in a large block in the middle portion of the book suggests that the nonsequential revelations were secondary to the production of the KRB.

When the work was begun, earlier revelations were recorded, in random order, on the first eighteen and one-half pages. After the chronological sequence on pages 19b–83a, Frederick G. Williams copied ten earlier revelations into the KRB, also in random order, on pages 83b– 97a. Then follows an entry by Oliver Cowdery (pp. 97b– 100a), four by Orson Hyde (pp. 100b–115), and another by Oliver Cowdery (p. 116). No further entries were made until the Nauvoo era, when James Mulholland became Joseph Smith’s scribe.

Three of Orson Hyde’s entries into the KRB (pp. 100b– 111a) indicate that they were made on two dates, 18 and 27 August 1834. This means that Frederick G. Williams’s last contemporaneous entry was 16 December 1833 (pp. 73– 83a), followed by his recording of earlier revelations in the KRB. This may be significant. The next revelation in sequence is Doctrine and Covenants 102 (KRB, p. 111a–115), the minutes of the organization of the high council at Kirtland, 17 February 1834. As noted at the end of the KRB entry (p. 115) and at the end of Doctrine and Covenants 102, Oliver Cowdery and Orson Hyde served as clerks at that time. It is therefore not surprising to see them as the scribes who recorded all the 1834 revelations into the KRB (pp. 97b– 116). Evidently, Williams now devoted his full attention to his call as Joseph Smith’s second counselor, and the work he had begun in the Kirtland Revelation Book was at an end.

The evidence for contemporaneity of entries postdating Frederick G. Williams’s call to serve as scribe to Joseph Smith seems strong. Contemporaneity, however, need not imply that the revelations were written down in the KRB as Joseph Smith originally dictated them. The KRB entries may have been made immediately or soon after the revelations were dictated and recorded elsewhere. Indeed, as we have seen, clear evidence indicates that at least three of the 1832–33 revelations in the hand of Frederick G. Williams were copied into the KRB from an earlier source.44 But it is likely that all or most of the other revelations from that time period are also secondary to the KRB, for none of them exhibits the kind of scribal corrections one would expect in manuscripts prepared from dictation.45

If, in fact, the KRB contains secondary entries, many of them contemporaneous or nearly contemporaneous with the original dictation, what was its purpose? I suggest that the principal reason was preservation of the writings. Single pieces of paper could be readily misplaced or stolen.46 Having a second copy in the KRB would be a natural step in safeguarding the revelations. It would also facilitate the preparation of a subsequent published collection of Joseph Smith’s revelations, the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.


I am indebted to Scott Faulring for his critique of this article and for his valuable suggestions.

  1. The first of the two entries that are not revelations, on pages 10–11, appears to be a diary entry noting the ordination of Joseph Smith’s counselors. The second, on pages 48–49, is said to be a song “sang by the gift of Tongues & Translated.”
  2. The revelation known as Doctrine and Covenants 74 is found twice in the KRB, on pages 94–95 and 117. Some of the separate entries in the KRB were combined to form a single section in the Doctrine and Covenants. It has been shown that in some cases we are dealing with what was intended to be a single revelation dictated in two or three sittings.
  3. The words To go into the covenants reflect the fact that the “doctrine” part of the original Doctrine and Covenants comprised the Lectures on Faith prepared for the Kirtland school of the prophets and the “covenants” portion referred to the revelations. An earlier collection of Joseph Smith’s revelations had been published in 1833 under the name Book of Commandments, a title still reflected in the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 1:6).
  4. Scott Faulring, conversation with author.
  5. The three revelations appearing in the KRB but not published in 1835 are Doctrine and Covenants 87 (KRB, pp. 32–33), 105 (KRB, pp. 97–100), and 103 (KRB, pp. 108–11). Only three of the KRB revelations appeared in the 1833 Book of Commandments (BC), many of the unpublished ones having been received after the cutoff date for that publication; those three revelations are Doctrine and Covenants 47 (BC 50; KRB, pp. 12–13); 41 (BC 43; KRB, pp. 93–94); and 42:74–77 (BC 47:21–24; KRB, pp. 117–18). All three had been received in February and March 1831, a year before the KRB was begun, and were later copied into the book.
  6. Some of the later corrections to the KRB entries may have been made with the intention of including them in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. Because this present study is only minimally concerned with textual emendation, I have not pursued this matter.
  7. The handwriting studies were summarized by Earl E. Olson, “The Chronology of the Ohio Revelations,” BYU Studies 11/4 (1971): 332–33, and in the typed index to the “Kirtland Revelations” in the LDS Church Historical Department.
  8. In most cases, I have omitted dates given at the beginning and end of the entries, since these are noted in the first column.
  9. Faulring thinks of this as a “diary entry” and notes that, at the time in question, Joseph Smith had not as yet begun his 1832 diary.
  10. The revelation may actually have been received in three segments. The KRB indicates that it was “given the 22 & 23d of Sept 1832” to “Joseph and six Elders” (p. 20), the preface being preserved as verse 1 of Doctrine and Covenants 84. But in what now constitutes verse 42, after “this day,” the KRB reads “viz 23d day of September AD 1832 Eleven High Priests save one” (p. 24). Somewhere between these two verses, Joseph moved from a meeting with six elders to a meeting with eleven high priests. It is not clear at what point the new material was recorded, for no break occurs in the text. But knowing the pattern usually followed in Joseph Smith’s revelations, it may have come at verse 29, which begins, “And again.”
  11. It is unclear when Oliver Cowdery added this notation, whether while serving as scribe for the KRB entries or when he assisted in the preparation of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. In any event, the wording on the scrap of paper became the heading for this revelation in that edition, where it became section 96.
  12. Faulring has suggested in a conversation with the author that Williams may have acted as scribe even earlier. He notes that an unpublished handwritten statement by Williams indicating that he had begun writing for Joseph Smith on 20 July 1832 implies that this is the date from which he was to be paid by the Prophet, being in his “employ,” leaving open the question of whether he provided scribal services gratis before that date. But the text makes it clear that he “commenced writing for Joseph” on that date. Moreover, the first KRB entry for which Williams signed as “scribe” (pp. 19–20) is also the first in the KRB to postdate the 20 July appointment to that position, and is dated 29 August 1832. For the present, I lean toward the date I have given here and will leave it to Faulring to argue his case elsewhere.
  13. Faulring’s view has implications for the contemporaneity of entries recorded in the KRB. He notes that many of the early revelations, including the first, are in chronological order:

D&C 76 (pp. 1–10)

16 February 1832

uncanonized (p. 10)

27 February 1832

diary entry (pp. 10–11)

8 March 1832

D&C 79 (p. 12)

12 March 1832

D&C 81 (pp. 17–18)

15 March 1832

uncanonized (p. 19)

20 March 1832

Using this scenario, the 1831 revelations found scattered between these pages were being added to the KRB, copied from earlier documents. Faulring’s suggestion is certainly plausible, but I am concerned by the fact that two of the 1832 revelations are out of sequence. These are Doctrine and Covenants 78 (dated 1 March 1832, pp. 15–17) and 80 (dated 7 March 1832, pp. 18–19), which not only follow later revelations recorded on pp. 12 and 17–18, but are separated by a revelation (D&C 81) dated 15 March 1832 (pp. 17–18). While it is not impossible that the revelations that became Doctrine and Covenants 78 and 80 were recorded belatedly, their disruption of the sequence suggests other possibilities.

  1. It may be significant that Williams’s first notations of his position, accompanying the revelations of 29 August and 22– 23 September 1832, indicate that he was the “scribe” (pp. 20, 31), while in the revelations of 6 December 1832 and 3 January 1833, he calls himself “assistant scribe and councellor” (pp. 32, 48). The change may reflect the designation of Sidney Rigdon (who is called “scribe and Councellor” in the revelation of 6 December 1832, p. 32) as first counselor and Williams as second. However, in the revelation of 8 March 1833, Williams calls himself “Counsellor & Scribe,” the last time he uses either title in the KRB. Indeed, it is the last time he expressly credits himself with having recorded a revelation in the KRB.
  2. History of the Church, 1:353.
  3. See ibid., 343.
  4. The manuscript copy is in the Newel K. Whitney collection at Brigham Young University. See Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1208.
  5. According to History of the Church, 1:407, Oliver returned on 21 August. But Faulring, in a conversation with the author, has noted that Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter from Kirtland to the brethren in Zion on 10 August, in which he records that he had arrived the previous day.
  6. See History of the Church, 1:409.
  7. See ibid., 416.
  8. See ibid., 418.
  9. See ibid., 422.
  10. See ibid., 417.
  11. See ibid., 410.
  12. See ibid., 446.
  13. See ibid., 2:62–63.
  14. See ibid., 142–44.
  15. See ibid., 64.
  16. See ibid., 139.
  17. See ibid., 146.
  18. See ibid., 147.
  19. See ibid., 160.
  20. See ibid., 34–35.
  21. These are not signatures, for they are in the hand of Frederick G. Williams. The original from which he copied the revelation into the KRB may have borne the actual signatures of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.
  22. See History of the Church, 1:245.
  23. See ibid., 416.
  24. See ibid., 422.
  25. See ibid., 419–21. If the revelation was recorded during the Canada trip, the original would have been written by Joseph, Sidney, or Freeman Nickerson.
  26. See ibid., 1:265–66.
  27. Ibid., 272.
  28. Faulring has suggested in a conversation with the author that Williams may have gone to Hiram to record revelations into the KRB before July 1832. It is, of course, possible that Williams spent all or part of February and March 1832 in Hiram, writing for Joseph Smith. This would probably not have interfered with planting crops on his own farm in Kirtland, which farming activities presumably would have begun after the month of March. He could even have gone to Hiram in August to record the KRB entry on pages 19–20, a revelation said to have been given at Hiram. But the evidence for Williams’s presence in Hiram is lacking.
  29. Woodford, “Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” 98.
  30. If Faulring’s assessment is correct, an even larger portion of the KRB reflects a chronological sequence for most of the entries beginning in February 1832, interspersed with the addition of earlier revelations in the earlier and latter portions of the manuscript.
  31. These are Doctrine and Covenants 84 (KRB, pp. 20–31), 90 (KRB, pp. 51–55), and 98 (KRB, pp. 66–71).
  32. For a discussion of the criteria for determining manuscripts prepared from dictation, see Royal Skousen, “John Gilbert’s 1892 Account of the 1830 Printing of the Book of Mormon,” pages 383–405 in this volume.
  33. Faulring has shown me evidence that some early records kept by Joseph Smith were, in fact, stolen, but I shall leave it to him to present this elsewhere. See Scott Faulring, “Symonds Ryder,” Mormon History Association Newsletter 103 (fall 1996): 3–5.