Orson Pratt and the Expansion of the Doctrine and Covenants
Utah State University
In 1874, Orson Pratt was asked to expand and chronologize the Doctrine and Covenants. When he completed his work two years later, Pratt had added an additional twenty-six sections to the book. Pratt’s project changed the way in which “canon,” “revelation,” and “scripture,” were understood within the Church by adding sections to the Doctrine and Covenants that were deliberately extracted from letters and personal journal entries, even though many of them may not have been considered binding on the Church at the time of their conception. He also expanded the prophetic voice and shored up the succession claims of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by inserting the first revelation received by someone other than Joseph Smith – Brigham Young.
This is the first study that seeks to analyze the entirety of Orson Pratt’s canonical insertions and uncover his rationale for adding and excising the sections that he did. Due to the scarcity of information regarding his decision-making, I have sought to contextualize his emendations to the Doctrine and Covenants by revealing the historical context of the 1870s and providing a thorough analysis of the text of the revelations that he inserted and deleted. By so doing, I am able to uncover the possible motivations that drove his project. I assert that Pratt’s project was influenced by three major factors: (1) his relationship with Brigham Young, (2) his desire to craft the revelatory history of Joseph Smith and further the priorities of the Church, and (3) to use the expansion project to respond to the external circumstances that were then effecting the Saints, namely, antipolygamy sentiment, schismatic groups, and severe economic hardships.