Joseph Smith Latter-day Saint History

What’s in Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations?

Within them is revealed a caring God who is engaged in our lives.

In the historical memory of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration who pronounced hundreds of revelations and prophecies, most of them canonized today in the Doctrine and Covenants. However, what many Saints may be surprised to learn is that a number of Joseph Smith’s revelations have, for various reasons, remained uncanonized even after their pronouncement.

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Editorial Note: Portions of this guest post have been taken and reworked from the introduction to Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Deseret Book, 2024). Read the book to learn more.

The book cover for Joseph Smith's Uncanonized Revelations.
Learn more about 42 of Joseph Smith’s uncanonized revelations in the book by Stephen Smoot and Brian Passantino.

Historical context of Joseph Smith’s uncanonized revelations

Scholars and Church leaders have known for decades that some of Joseph Smith’s revelations remain outside the canon of scripture. Elder Bruce R. McConkie acknowledged in 1976, for example, how it is “obvious” that there are “other revelations [of Joseph Smith] which might appropriately be given . . . additional dignity and formal stamp of approval” by inclusion in the canon.

Thanks to the scholarly work of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, these uncanonized revelations are now better understood and accessible to readers around the world. However, average readers will probably find it difficult or bothersome to sift through all twenty-seven volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers to locate these uncanonized revelations.

Our new book, Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations, published conjointly by the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, aims to remove that barrier to help facilitate access to these fascinating documents.

With our book we also hope to enhance the Saints’ study of this material by distilling the latest scholarship on this subject in an approachable yet rigorous manner.

42 uncanonized revelations of Joseph Smith

Based on criteria we describe in our book, we have identified forty-two revelations or portions of revelations the Prophet produced that went uncanonized in his lifetime—and that remain uncanonized today. (Despite our best efforts in identifying the uncanonized revelations, we acknowledge the possibility that there are more than have been identified in this volume.)

Compared to the number of revelations canonized during Joseph Smith’s lifetime in the two editions of the Doctrine and Covenants prepared under his supervision (one in 1835 and another in 1844), this is not an insignificant number and serves as a witness to his prophetic proficiency.

Learn more about Joseph Smith’s uncanonized revelations in this lecture with Stephen Smoot and Brian Passantino.

Topics of Joseph Smith’s uncanonized revelations

As with his revelations canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith’s uncanonized revelations are a diverse selection of texts that were received at various times and settings, were directed to various individuals, and cover various subjects.

These uncanonized revelations touch on a variety of issues, including:

  • The publication of the Book of Mormon
  • Signs of the Second Coming
  • Admonitions to individual Saints in their respective duties and callings
  • Divine rebukes and calls to repentance
  • Instructions on how to implement the law of consecration
  • The nature of the “pure language” spoken by Adam and Eve
  • Plural marriage

None of the revelations in this new volume significantly change our understanding of either Church history or doctrine. Instead, they provide fuller context to some of Joseph Smith’s teachings and inform our understanding of some specific incidents in the early history of the Restoration.

They contain inspired and inspiring principles that are in harmony with the restored gospel as taught in the scriptures, to be sure, and also raise some doctrinal questions that are worth readers’ considered attention.

Why the revelations weren’t canonized

By now the inquisitive reader is probably wondering: why weren’t the revelations featured in this new volume ever canonized?

For most of these texts we have no definitive answer because we have no historical evidence that can give us any insight into the decision to leave them uncanonized. That being said, we do have a limited sense as to why some of these revelations went uncanonized—even if we yet lack a full understanding.

Most of the revelations we have collected in our new book are short and deal with administrative matters in the Church or are addressed to individuals on how to fulfill a calling or mission. Some of the other revelations featured in this book, such as those pertaining to plural marriage and the Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, were kept uncanonized because they were meant to be secret.

Others still were expressly instructed not to be published by the Prophet but without providing any further elaboration.

Why they matter

Despite this, the uncanonized status of these revelations in no way detracts from their authenticity or inspired nature. They are true revelations from the Lord to Joseph Smith in every sense that those in the Doctrine and Covenants are.

Their position outside the canon of scripture simply means that they have neither been deemed universally authoritative by Church leaders nor accepted as such by its members according to their common consent as an ecclesiastic body and community (Doctrine and Covenants 26:2; 28:13; 104:21), and should, consequently, not be used “to govern [the] Church” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:59).

Notwithstanding their place outside of the canon, these revelations in this new volume are important in helping us better understand Joseph Smith and his ministry. Within them is revealed a caring God who is engaged in our lives and who cares about even the seemingly minute details of our daily existence.

About the authors

Stephen O. Smoot is an adjunct instructor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and a doctoral candidate in Semitic and Egyptian languages and literature at the Catholic University of America. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern civilizations and bachelor’s degrees from Brigham Young University in ancient Near Eastern studies and German studies. Outside academia, Stephen has worked as a research associate with Book of Mormon Central and the B. H. Roberts Foundation.

Brian C. Passantino is a research consultant for the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also a doctoral student at the University of Utah in history. He earned a master’s degree in history at Utah State University, where he wrote an award-winning thesis on Orson Pratt’s expansion of the Doctrine and Covenants. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in ancient Near Eastern studies at Brigham Young University. Brian currently resides in Utah with his wife, Cara, and their three children, Chaz, Max, and Sicily.

Further reading

Joseph Smith’s uncanonized revelations resources

Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations: Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Revelations
    • A Revelation to Secure the Copyright of the Book of Mormon
    • A Revelation to Ezra Thayer and Joseph Smith Sr.
    • A Revelation to John Burk, David Elliott, and Erastus Babbitt
    • The Testimony of the Witnesses of the Book of the Lord’s Commandments
    • A Revelation to Lincoln Haskins
    • A Sample of Pure Language
    • A Revelation on the Duties of Bishops
    • A Revelation Answering Two Questions
    • A Revelation to Frederick G. Williams
    • A Commandment to Secure the Copyright of the Scriptures
    • A Revelation on the United Firm
    • A Revelation to the Leaders of the Church
    • A Prophecy on the Mitigation of Sickness
    • A Revelation to Frederick G. Williams and Mary Bailey Smith
    • A Revelation to Reynolds Cahoon
    • A Revelation to Frederick G. Williams
    • A Revelation to the Twelve
    • A Revelation to Isaac Morley and Edward Partridge
    • A Revelation to William W. Phelps and John Whitmer
    • A Revelation to Warren Parrish
    • A Revelation to Harvey Whitlock
    • A Revelation to Erastus Holmes
    • A Vision of the Twelve
    • A Revelation to John Whitmer and William W. Phelps
    • A Prophecy of War
    • A Revelation to Edward Partridge
    • A Revelation on the Order of Church Discipline
    • A Revelation on the Authority of the First Presidency
    • A Revelation on the Removal of the First Presidency to Zion
    • A Revelation to Brigham Young
    • A Revelation to William W. Phelps and Frederick G. Williams
    • A Revelation to Oliver Granger
    • A Revelation to William Allred and Henry W. Miller
    • A Revelation to Marinda Nancy Johnson
    • A Revelation to the Twelve
    • A Revelation to John Snider
    • A Revelation to the Twelve
    • A Revelation of Warning
    • A Revelation to Newel K. and Sarah Ann Whitney
    • A Revelation to John E. Page
    • A Revelation to the Council of Fifty
    • A Revelation to the Council of Fifty
  • Appendixes
    • The Articles of the Church of Christ
    • A Recollection of a Revelation to Preach to the Lamanites
    • A Blessing and Revelation to William W. Phelps
    • A Revelation to Ira Ames
    • A Revelation on Lehi’s Travel
  • Location of Uncanonized Revelations in The Joseph Smith Papers
  • Citation Guide to The Joseph Smith Papers
  • Selected Bibliography
  • About the Editors

One reply on “What’s in Joseph Smith’s Uncanonized Revelations?”

“A sample of pure language” is a strange little doc and I am surprised they included it in this list. I can see why it was left out of canonized books.

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