Signficant Additions, Revisions, and Updates to the Doctrine and Covenants, 1844-1921

Artifacts

The second American edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1844, mere weeks following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. As such, this was the first edition to include John Taylor’s words regarding their martyrdom, which is Section 135 in our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Seven other revelations, Sections 103, 105, 112, 119, 124, 127, and 128, were also first included in this edition.

Note: Clicking the thumbnail will take you outside of L. Tom Perry Special Collections to the Joseph Smith Papers project website, where they have a scanned copy of the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants. Note how this version of Section 95 (what is today Section 100) compares to other editions and to the original handwritten manuscript copy.

The Doctrine and covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Containing the revelations given to Joseph Smith, Jun., the prophet… (Salt Lake City, Utah Territory: Deseret News Office, 1879).

Brigham Young assigned Orson Pratt of the Twelve Apostles to revise the Doctrine and Covenants in preparation for the printing of a new edition in 1876. In addition to adding 26 revelations, Pratt re-divided the verses, making the text more reader-friendly. He also removed the formal statement on marriage first included in the 1835 edition, which conflicted with the Church’s advocacy of polygamy during this period, and added what is now section 132, Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy. In 1879, three years later, Pratt would add footnotes while overseeing the preparation of stereotyped printing plates in England.

James E. Talmage was a member of the committee tasked with producing a revised edition of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921. In his journal on March 17, 1921, when the committee’s original charge was approved by the First Presidency, Elder Talmage records the scope of their charge, which includes making changes to typography, punctuation, capitalization, creating an “adequate index,” and descriptive headings for each section.

It should be noted that later in this entry (on the following page) Elder Talmage noted that a decision was made “that the whole matter [of these revisions] be left to a subcommittee of one, and I am that one.” Thus while there was a committee that assisted in this work, the work described above was performed primarily by James E. Talmage.

(James E. Talmage papers, MSS 229)

The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints containing revelations given to Joseph Smith, the prophet, with some additions by his successors in the presidency of the church. (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1921).

In March 1921, a committee of apostles who produced the 1920 Book of Mormon was again used to produce a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. George F. Richards (chair), Anthony W. Ivins, Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmage, and Melvin J. Ballard made up the committee.

This edition had two significant changes. The biggest change was the removal of the Lectures on Faith. As is explained here in the “Explanatory Introduction,” it was decided to remove these because “they were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons.”

Another significant change in this edition was the arrangement of text in a double-column format, making it more like commonly available Bibles. The committee also expanded the section headnotes and revised footnotes, and Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto regarding plural marriage was included under the heading “Official Declaration.” This edition of the Doctrine and Covenants remained the standard of the Church for 60 years until it was replaced in 1981.