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D&C 113 and Isaiah 11

This posting in in response to a comment
following the post on Isaiah 11. Footnote
21 of that post, which can be found at:

https://studyitout.com/isaiah-11-its-meaning/
suggests the possibility of a a scrivener's 
error in Section 113 and invited inquiry if
a reader was interested in a fuller explanation.
This is that explanation.

Section 113.

This section answers questions about Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 52. According to the head note and manuscript history of this Church, these answers were given during March 1838, the month the prophet and his family arrived in Far West after fleeing from Kirtland. There is no indication who had the questions about Isaiah 11, but the record says it was Elias Higby, who had participated in the high council proceedings against the presidency of the church which ultimately led to the excommunication of W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer, who asked the questions about Isaiah 52.

Section 113 is not described in the manuscript history or the head note to this section as a revelation. And it is not clear how or why Section 113 became part of the Doctrine and Covenants. It first appeared in the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1876 edition. It was not recorded in the manuscript history of the church, apparently, until 1844 or so.

When J[oseph] S[mith] was killed in June 1844, the manuscript numbered 812 pages in two large, bound volumes (subsequently designated A-1 and B-1). They carried the narrative through 5 August 1838. Richards then paused work on the history until 11 December 1844 when, under the direction of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve, he and William W. Phelps, assisted by Thomas Bullock, resumed gathering and compiling the necessary records and accounts. Beginning in early 1845 Richards began the practice of arranging draft notes while Bullock composed and inscribed additional text in the second volume (B-1).1

Section 113 is recorded in volume B–1 of the manuscript history in Willard Richard’s handwriting.2Volume B–1 was started on October 1, 1843.3Joseph Smith did not dictate or revise any of the material found in volume B–1.

Though JS did not dictate or revise any of the text recorded in B-1, Willard Richards and Thomas Bullock chose to maintain the first-person, chronological narrative format established in A-1 as if JS were the author. They drew from a variety of primary and secondary sources including JS’s diaries and letters, minutes of meetings, the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, church and other periodicals, reports of JS’s discourses, and the reminiscences and recollections of church members. As was the case with A-1, after JS’s death, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, and others modified and corrected the manuscript as they reviewed material before its eventual publication.4

The manuscript history describes Section 113 by a heading omitted in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Questions and on Scripture,” but there is a marginal note, in what may be Richard’s handwriting, that says “Questions on Scripture.” The transcription of the record found in the Joseph Smith Papers is reformatted for easy reading as follows (the guillemets indicate marginal notes or interlineated text):

Questions and on Scripture.
< Questions on Scripture > [Marginal note.] Who is the Stem of Jesse, spoken of in the 1, 2, 3, 4, < & > 5th verses of the 11. chapter of Isaiah? Christ.

< answer. > [Marginal note.] Verily thus saith the Lord, it is Christ.

What is the Rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chap. of Isaiah that should come, of the stem of Jesse? [HC 3:9]

Behold! thus saith the Lord. It is a Servant in the hands of Christ. who is partly a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph on whom there is laid much power.

What is the Root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?

Behold thus saith the Lord. It is a descendant of Jesse as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.

< Questions by Elias Higby [Higbee] as follows. > [Martinal note.]

What is meant by the command in Isaiah 52d Chapter 1st verse, which saith put on thy strength O, Zion, and what people had Isa. reference to?

He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days. who should hold the power of Priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel: And to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she (Zion) has a right to by lineage; Also to return to that power which she had lost.

What are we to understand by Zion’s loosing herself from the bands of her neck, 2d verse?

We are to understand that the scattered remnants are exorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen, which, if they do, the promise of the Lord is that he will speak to them, or give them revelation, See 6, 7 and 8th verses. The bands of [p. 784] her neck, are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles.5

A reader may fairly question how good the answers to these questions are. In the case of Isaiah 11, for example, the stem-of-Jesse question is, “Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th verses?” The answer is direct and odd. “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It is Christ.” Since the Lord is the one answering this question, it would seem more grammatical to say, “It is me,” or “I am the the Stem of Jesse.” But neither the question nor the answer align with Isaiah 11:1, 2, 3, 4, and 5:

6

The question says stem of Jesse is found in each of the foregoing verses, but it is not. Stem of Jesse is part of the prepositional phrase modifying the subject in the first half of the couplet comprising verse one, the noun rod. The second half of this couplet substitutes the word Branch7for rod and his roots for stem of Jesse. The antecedent of the pronouns in verses two through five is rod or Branch, not stem of Jesse, because stem of Jesse is merely the modifier of rod and Branch, this modifier saying from where the rod or branch comes.

It is easy to see that the better question in Doctrine and Covenants 113 would have been the one that was not asked but answered, “Who is the rod or branch spoken of in verses one through five?” The answer, “Christ,” would then make sense.

Or would it? Speaking of this person, verse two says, “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” The antecedent of him is, clearly, the rod or branch used metonymically in verse one. But substituting Lord for the pronoun makes the first part of Isaiah 11:2 seem a little odd, “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon [the Lord].” This is followed by a three-part anaphora with hendiadyses defining what the spirit of the Lord is. The anaphora would make sense if the first part of verse two said, “The Lord shall have.” The anaphora could then, with a little wresting, describe the Lord.

Verse three, also, seems inconsistent with a reference to Christ, because it says, “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” Why would the Savior need to have fear of Himself?8

Making the Lord the object of the first five verses does violence to the rest of the chapter. The rest of the chapter, indeed the whole chapter, has to do with the restoration of the gospel in the latter days.9

Making sense of Isaiah 11 requires that rod or branch be someone other than the Savior. And the object of these references is, with very little doubt, Joseph Smith for at least two reasons. First, this scripture is one quoted to Joseph Smith by the angel who appeared to tell him about the gold plates. Joseph records the quotation of scriptures that deal with the restoration in the latter days before referencing the quotation of Isaiah 11, it would be anomalous if the angel quoted something about the Savior on this occasion. Thus, the quotation of Isaiah 11 should be ejusdem generis with the scriptures quoted beforehand, and that militates in favor of concluding the tenor of the rod and branch metonyms is a man instrumental in the restoration.

Militating against this conclusion is what follows the Isaiah 11 quotation in Joseph Smith’s history where a prophet about whom Moses spoke is identified as the Savior. Referring to Acts 3:22–23, the JSH says, “[T]hat prophet was the Christ.”10But here is the scripture from Acts with prophet bolded where the JSH says the reference is to Christ.

Acts 3:19–24 (bolding added)[/efn_note]

Saying that prophet as bolded above refers to the Savior is strained, just like the stretch to make the rod and branch metonyms in Isaiah 11—rather than stem of Jesse—refer to the Savior. The anomaly is exacerbated by what Jacob, Nephi’s brother, said about the seer to be raised up in the latter days who would be like Moses This prophet would be from of the loins of David—from the stem of Jesse—and will have power to bring about the Book of Mormon to restore Lehi’s descendants to the truth: Nephi’s brother, Jacob, even says this latter-day prophet would be named Joseph, the same as his father’s name.11

The Joseph identified as the prophet in the latter days in Isaiah 11 and Acts 3, and 2 Nephi 3 is Joseph Smith. It is not the Savior. So there is a scrivener’s error in the JSH from which Section 113 was taken12All of the scriptures quoted to Joseph Smith by the angel describing the gold plates to him, in other words, are ejusdem generis because they all deal with the restoration and Joseph Smith’s pivotal role in the restoration as prophesied by the ancient prophets.

The angel appearing to Joseph Smith would want to impress on the young Joseph Smith both the importance of his calling, the subject of the last half of Isaiah 11, and begin his education on the nature of the Spirit, which is the subject of the first nine verses in Isaiah 11. The first nine verses of Isaiah 11 are prophecy about Joseph Smith, a prophecy the angel surely explained to him.

Endnotes

  1. The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/doc/introduction-to-history-1838-1856-manuscript-history-of-the-church (accessed November 2, 2019).
  2. History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838],” p. 784–785, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 2, 2019, Document information, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-b-1-1-september-1834-2-november-1838/238#facts.
  3. History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838], https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-b-1-1-september-1834-2-november-1838/1#historical-intro (accessed November 2, 2019).
  4. Id.
  5. History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838],” p. 784, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 2, 2019, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-b-1-1-september-1834-2-november-1838/238
  6. These verses, Isaiah 11:1–5, have been reformatted to show the stylistic elements. Anaphora, hendiadys, metaphor, and couplets highlighted by this reformatting are typical of ancient writing in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. These parts of are just a pericope that does not present the full stylistic form of the first nine verses of Isaiah 11, which are written as a Pindaric Ode. Verse one is the introduction. Verse two is the first strophe and defines the Spirit of the Lord with three anaphoras an hendiadys in each. Verses three and four form the first antistrophe and give examples of the effect upon a person who has the Spirit of the Lord in a series of three couplets. Verse five, a couplet, is the second strophe and describes the resulting humanity of a person with the Spirit of Lord. Verses six through the first phrase of verse nine constitute the second antistrophe and give examples of the effect of this spiritual person’s humanity via a chiasmus centered on a little child followed by three prose statements. Finally, the last two lines of verse nine constitute the epode.
  7. Branch is capitalized in the KJV the NIV, but it is not in the LXX (“And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up for his root. . . .”), the NRSV (“A shoot shall come out from Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots . . . .”), nor either the JB or NJB (shoot is the word that comes from the stock of Jesse or from his roots in the JB, but shoot and scion are the words in the NJB). The words are not capitalized in the Reina-Valera 1960 version of Santa Biblia.
  8. As used here, the term fear of the Lord is defined by the antistrophe where this phrase is found, Isaiah 11:3–4. Fear of he Lord means a person who adheres to the teachings and follows the example of he Lord, which, of course, the Savior could not do, because He is the source of the teachings and the example to be followed. But one cannot follow himself.
  9. A full explanation of the meaning of Isaiah 11 is set forth in the author’s exegesis of Isaiah 11.
  10. JSH 1:40.
  11. 2 Nephi 3:7–15.
  12. Willard Richard’s wrote this part of the manuscript history of the Church—from which Section 113 was taken—and, as noted above, Richard’s work was not reviewed by Joseph Smith.

1 thought on “D&C 113 and Isaiah 11

    • Author gravatar

      Let me start by saying Thank You for posting this. These verses from Isaiah have been one of those things that have stuck in the back of my mind as not being quite right. I had thought it referred to Joseph Smith, but the explanation has always been that it referred to the Savior. It does make much more sense the way you have explained it and it has given me some hope that I am not picking at gnats. I find it interesting that many people disregard the chance for human error or interpretation as something that can even happen in the church. Most people I have talked to don’t even want to consider that it could happen. The thing is though it happens all the time. I think that this is where many disagreements have come into being with people of other religions. It is easy to point out this kind of error in other philosophies or systems of belief, especially those that originated over 1000 years or more ago. It is more difficult for many members of the church to to use that same logic when considering our own documents and accounts. I have been guilty of it myself. It is much easier to see a problem when it is someone else and not ourselves.

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