Yes, of course. Editing documents to prepare them for publication is perfectly acceptable. The many documented changes in the Book of Commandments (now the Doctrine and Covenants) may come as a surprise to some Latter-day Saints, but it's not anything shocking or deceptive. Joseph made substantial edits in some passages to prepare the text for publication. This included many changes involving grammar and punctuation, making some sections more complete, adding material or making changes to add information from subsequent revelations for clarity, or removing material that was no longer needed or appropriate. The anti-Mormons make a great deal out of this, but they grossly misunderstand the reality of publishing and of editing.
Jeremiah, for example, made editorial additions in a second version of his writings. See Jeremiah 36, where we learn that Baruch wrote all the words from Jeremiah that were recorded in a book (vss. 4, 17, 18) Unfortunately, King Jehoiakim of Judah burned the book that contained the words of Jeremiah (vss. 21-25). The Lord commanded Jeremiah to prepare his document again, writing "all the former words that were in the first roll" (vs. 28). In verse 32, Jeremiah then commanded his scribe, Baruch, to write on another roll the words of Jeremiah, "and there were added besides unto them many like words." Many like words added? This doesn't sound like original dictation straight from the mouth of God, perfectly preserved and unchangeable. Prophets speak or dictate by inspiration, but there can be later changes and additions. I have no problem with Joseph Smith doing the same. The fact that there has been significant editing of the Bible is no reason to throw it out. Same for the Book of Commandments.
For excellent information on the nature of the changes in the Book of Commandments, see "Editing to Prepare Revelations for Publication," an essay by Melvin J. Petersen that deals with the kinds of changes made to prepare the Book of Commandments (now the Doctrine and Covenants) for publication. Yes, of course there were changes. This is nothing to cause anger or loss of faith.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
I was recently asked if there had been hundreds of changes to the Book of Commandments. My quick answer:
Posted by Jeff Lindsay at 8:27 PM