Minutes, , OH, 8 Nov. 1831. Featured version, titled “Minutes of a special Conference held in Hiram, Portage Co. Ohio, Nov. 8. 1831,” copied [between ca. 6 Apr. and 19 June 1838] in Minute Book 2, pp. 16–17; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 2.
On 8 November 1831, JS and seven held a special in , Ohio—probably in an upstairs room in and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs Johnson’s house—to discuss the planned publication of the Book of Commandments. The conference addressed the need to correct errors in some of the revelations before publication. A later JS history notes that the 1–2 November conference, which decided to print ten thousand copies of the Book of Commandments, also discussed “Revelations and language,” though the history does not provide the details of that conversation. However, JS dictated two revelations at that conference that touched on the subject of language. A revelation called the “preface” to the Book of Commandments declared that the “ . . . were given unto my Servents in their weakness after the manner of their Language.” Another revelation asserted that some of the elders knew the “imperfections” of JS’s language and “sought . . . knowlege that you might express beyond his language.”
In discussions at the 8 November conference, attributed whatever mistakes existed in the revelations to the tedious process of transcribing them and to scribal errors. , who was present at this conference and who had served as the scribe for a JS revelation just ten days earlier, later described the process of recording at least some of the dictated revelations. “The scribe seats himself at a desk or table, with pen, ink and paper,” McLellin explained, while JS “enquires of God.” Receiving the words “spiritually,” McLellin continued, JS “speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” pausing “for his amanuenses to write and then read aloud each sentence.” By this process of dictation and recital, McLellin reported, the revelations were composed. Although seemingly slow and careful, this process apparently still failed to prevent transcription errors from occurring, at least according to the minutes of this conference.
The conference resolved that JS review the revelations and make any necessary corrections to them. remembered several decades later that around November 1831, JS, , and spent hours revising the revelations. However, the manuscripts of the revelations show Rigdon made only minor changes before Cowdery and left for with Revelation Book 1 on 20 November; it is unclear whether JS or Cowdery was involved in that process. A few months after Cowdery and Whitmer arrived in Missouri with the revelation book, a council that included JS authorized Cowdery and Whitmer, together with , “to review the Book of Commandmants . . . & make all necessary verbal corrections.” JS’s journal from December 1832—over a year later—indicates that he also “corrected revelations” that month.
As clerk of the 8 November 1831 conference, kept the minutes. later copied the minutes into Minute Book 2.
Minutes of a special held in , Portage Co. Ohio, Nov. 8. 1831.
Joseph Smith jr.
Br. Joseph Smith jr. appointed Moderator & Clerk. Opened, prayer by br. Joseph Smith jr.
Remarks by br. on the errors or mistakes which are in and revelations, made either by the scribe translation in consequence of the slow way of the scribe at the time of receiving or by the scribes themselves
Resolved by this conference that Br Joseph Smith Jr correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the holy Spirit while receiving therevelationsreviewing reviewing the revelations & commandments & also the fulness of the scriptures.
Resolved by this conference that br shall all the writings which go forth to the world which go through the Printing press (except) the revelations and commandments) by the Spirit of the Lord and this according to the commandment given in [p. 16]
Cowdery, Rigdon, and John Whitmer worked as JS’s main scribes on his revision of the Bible, making it likely that they served as scribes for revelations as well. By September 1831, Rigdon was apparently sometimes referred to as “Sidney th[e] Scribe,” suggesting that he was JS’s chief scribe. (Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 63–71; Whitmer, History, 37.)
Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.