The Church History Department has announced a major update to the Joseph Smith Papers website. Additions and enhancements include among other things, new finding aids, histories Joseph Smith assigned others to write, a letter to Emma Smith and a new enhanced document viewer.
One of the interesting items now available online is the so-called “Sixth Gathering” of the Book of Commandments.
Plans for a compilation of revelations began in 1831 and by 1833, five of probably six “gatherings” (a large sheet containing 32 printed pages) had been printed.
Due to the destruction of the press, the 6th gathering was not printed, nor was any record kept of its planned content. For years, the full content of the Book of Commandments was a matter of speculation.
A previously unavailable handwritten volume of revelations (“Revelations Book 1″) had clues that helped determine what items might have been included. Coupled with the physical makeup of the Book of Commandments, textual patterns and other evidence, researchers were able to reconstruct what was probably the missing portion of this book.
After assembling the proposed text, the editors were able to count the number of words in the five successfully published gatherings, and use that value to check the proposed text of the sixth gathering to see if it matched. The word count fell within the expected range, validating the evidence already used.
The content of the “Sixth Gathering” can be viewed here.
In addition, the site has a new “finding aid” that describes Joseph Smith’s history-writing endeavors, and the relationship between all of the histories posted on the website.
For those interested in studying earlier versions of revelations, images of Oliver Cowdery’s copy of the Book of Commandments, revelations printed in The Evening and the Morning Star and its later reprint are available, along with side-by-side comparisons.
Pursuing documents written in Joseph Smith’s own hand is now easier with this finding aid.
A full list of additions and enhancements can be viewed here.