“How long can rolling waters remain impure?”: Literary Aspects of the Doctrine and Covenants

Abstract: Many parts of the Doctrine and Covenants are literary in character. That is, their content is made appealing and more memorable and meaningful through aesthetic qualities. With content often determining form and form revealing content, profound concerns are presented in ways that reach us deeply. A statement in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding things which come of the earth applies well to the book’s literary elements: They “please the eye and … gladden the heart; [they] enliven the soul” (D&C 59:18-19). Continue reading

On Doctrine and Covenants Language and the 1833 Plot of Zion

Abstract: Contrary to the generally accepted view, it seems likely that much of the wording of the Doctrine and Covenants was transmitted to Joseph Smith as part of the revelatory process. Apparent bad grammar and a limited reading of “after the manner of their language” (D&C 1:24) have led to the received view that “the language of the revelations was Joseph Smith’s.”1 This judgment, however, is probably inaccurate. Abundant cases of archaic forms and structures, sometimes overlapping with Book of Mormon usage, argue for a different interpretation of “after the manner of their language.” Scholars have chosen, for the most part, to disregard the implications of a large amount of complex, archaic, well-formed language found in both scriptural texts. As for the 1833 Plot of Zion, transmitted words in Doctrine and Covenants revelations, a key statement by Frederick G. Williams, and a small but significant amount of internal archaic usage mean that the layout, dimensions, and even some language of the city plat were specifically revealed as well. Continue reading

“Creator of the First Day”: The Glossing of Lord of Sabaoth in D&C 95:7

Abstract: The calqued name-title Lord of Sabaoth, echoing James 5:4, occurs four times in the Doctrine and Covenants in revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith from December 25, 1832 to August 6, 1833. Of these occurrences, only D&C 95:7 offers a gloss or interpretation for the name “the Lord of Sabaoth,” which is, by interpretation, “the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.” Upon close inspection, this explanation makes excellent sense from an ancient Israelite etiological as well as (perhaps) an etymological standpoint. Past criticisms of the gloss in D&C 95:7 have focused on the wrongly assumed incongruity of first day and Sabaoth (hosts), and have neglected function of the divine name Yhwh in titles, most often represented in scripture by the term “Lord, as in the calqued name-title Lord of Hosts. Understanding the connection between Yhwh (the form of which suggests the meaning He creates,” “He brings into existence,” “he brings to pass), the divine council (the hosts), creation (on the first day or Day One), and the underlying grammatical meaning of Lord of Hosts = Yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt (i.e., He creates the [heavenly] hosts or He brings to pass the [heavenly] hosts) is crucial to understanding the calque Lord of Sabaoth and the explanation given in D&C 95:7. When considered in its entirety, this revealed gloss is right on target. The creation/‌begetting of the heavenly hosts was associated with the first day or Day One in ancient Israelite thought. They are described as finished or fully prepared by the end of the six creative periods (days in Genesis 2:1). Additionally, Lord of Sabaoth or Yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt is to be understood in connection with the similarly constructed name-title Yhwh ʾĕlōhîm (He creates gods,” “he causes gods to be, or he brings to pass gods). The meristic appositive title the beginning and the end implies that Yhwh is not only the author/creator of Israel and its salvation but the [Page 52]finisher thereof. Far from evidence of Joseph Smith’s lack of knowledge of Hebrew, the interpretive gloss in D&C 95:7 constitutes evidence of Joseph’s ability to obtain correct translations and interpretations through revelation. Continue reading