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How did we get the Doctrine and Covenants?

Newel K. Whitney owned a store in Kirtland, Ohio, and was called as Bishop of Ohio in 1831.

If you have ever wondered this question, then BYU’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections may have the answer. From now until April graduation, Special Collections will be exhibiting documents and publications that trace the history of the Doctrine and Covenants in the library’s Reading Room. Included in the exhibit is a selection of manuscript revelations from the Newel Kimball Whitney papers (Vault MSS 76).  Before the revelations were published in the form we know today, they were first written down.  Many were written on loose leaves of paper or in record books like Joseph Smith’s journal, and were often written while the revelation was received and dictated or soon afterward.  However, some are not originals but were often transcribed copies made earlier than those found in publications.  Whitney collected personal copies of several transcribed revelations, many of which are likely some of the earliest copies of these revelations prior to being published.  Scribes of these revelations include Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and Fredrick G. Williams. Cowdery, Whitmer and Rigdon, along with Joseph Smith and William W. Phelps, were called by revelation in November 1831 as “stewards over the revelations and commandments” (D&C 70), known as the Literary Firm. This group eventually published the revelations in the Evening and Morning Star (1832) and the Book of Commandments (1833). Fredrick G. Williams, along with Smith, Cowdery and Rigdon, made up the committee over the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835.  It is not known exactly when these revelations in this collection were written, or why Whitney had these revelations in his possession, but seven of them directly relate to him, his store, or the office of a bishop, received soon after he became Bishop of the Ohio branch of the Church.

To view a description of the contents of the Newel Kimball Whitney papers and access digital images of the collection, click here.

Tune in next week to hear about other items on exhibit, including some very scarce and rarely seen early Church publications.  Come to Special Collections (1st floor of the HBLL) and take advantage of this special opportunity to view some important documents from early Church history!

Note: Since the exhibit is in the Special Collections Reading Room, you will be required to put all belongings in a locker provided in the lobby before you can enter to see the exhibit.

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