Account of John

The Account of John or Parchment of John is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement, which, according to Latter Day Saint theology, contains a teaching that Jesus gave to his apostles John and Peter, which John wrote down and then hid. Joseph Smith then saw the parchment in vision in April 1829 using his seer stone, and was then able to translate it.[2][3]

Earliest extant copy of the translation of the parchment of John, copied by John Whitmer c. March 1831[1]

The translation of the parchment of John was one of Smith's earliest written revelations, and along with the Book of Mormon was the earliest of Smith's translation projects.[4] It has been canonized by both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ in their respective editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.

In the 1835 publication of the translation, the text was significantly expanded. The reasons for the expansion were never explained, leading to broad speculation, ranging from Smith receiving a second revelation on the subject, to Smith or others anachronistically inserting elements to support recent theological developments.[5][6]

BackgroundEdit

The Gospel of John contains an enigmatic section where Jesus alludes that an anonymous beloved disciple would perhaps live till the second coming. The meaning and identity of this disciple, as well as the authorship of the account has been debated for thousands of years. It was generally believed since around the late second century that the author of the Gospel of John and beloved disciple were both John the son of Zebedee, and this was the consensus in Joseph Smith's time.[7] The current scholarly consensus posits that the book was written by an anonymous author within the Johannine community in the late first century.[8][9]

The meaning of Jesus' phrase "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" has similarly been broadly interpreted and debated. The scholar Adam Clarke wrote in 1825, "For nearly eighteen hundred years, the greatest men in the world have been puzzled with this passage. It would appear intolerable in me to attempt to decide where so many eminent doctors have disagreed, and do still disagree."[4][10]

HistoryEdit

In April 1829, Oliver Cowdery had begun to assist as a scribe to Joseph Smith while they were translating the Book of Mormon. During this time a disagreement arose about whether or not the Apostle John had died, or whether he was still alive.[11] The part of the Book of Mormon being translated and events leading up to the disagreement are unknown, however, Frank Judd and Terry Szink suggest that based on the traditional April 7th date of the revelation, that Alma 45:18–19 is a good candidate.[12] In this location of the Book of Mormon narrative, a prophet named Alma leaves the land and is never heard from again, leaving his death ambiguous.[12] Another proposed candidate section is 3 Nephi 28, which discusses Three Nephites who in the narrative desire of a resurrected Jesus to tarry till Jesus' second coming, which is granted to them, which Jesus noting that it was the same desire that John had.[13] Judd and Szink point out that if 3 Nephi 28 were the catalyst, then the traditionally accepted date of the Account of John revelation should be re-examined, as it is unlikely that Smith would have reached that point in the translation by April 7th.[12]

Smith and Cowdery decided to resolve the matter by seeking a revelation from God through the Urim and Thummim. It is not clear whether the Urim and Thummim referred to were the Nephite spectacles buried with the Gold Plates, or seer stone Smith had been using to translate the Book of Mormon.[4][14] The response was a firsthand narrative by John, with the resurrected Christ informing him that he would indeed tarry until the second coming to bring souls to salvation.[4]

ExpansionEdit

The text of the revelation was in flux till 1835, with minor grammatical changes and a significant expansion in 1835.[4]

In 1832, Smith organized what came to be known as First Presidency, composed of a president and two counselors. Smith taught in 1834 that the apostle Peter was the president of the ancient church and was assisted by two counselors, presumed to be James and John.[4] Additionally, in 1834 Oliver Cowdery announced to the church that Peter, James and John had visited Smith and himself and given them the Melchizedek priesthood, which included the keys of church administration.[15] References to Peter, James and John did not appear in any early revelation, but were added to various sections of the Doctrine and Covenants for the 1835 edition including the account of John.[15][4]

The expansion also draws phrases from Psalm 104:4 and Hebrews 1:7,14, synthesizing the terms "flaming fires," "ministering", and "heirs of salvation".[4]

Textual Development of the Account of John[4]
1831 Book of Commandments and Revelations 1833 Book of Commandments 1835 Doctrine and Covenants
And the Lord said unto me. John my Beloved what desiredst thou & I said Lord give unto me power that I may bring souls unto thee & the Lord said unto me Veriley Verily I say unto thee because thou desiredst this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory 1 AND the Lord said unto me, John my beloved, what desirest thou? and I said Lord, give unto me power that I may bring souls unto thee.— And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily I say unto thee, because thou desiredst this, thou shalt tarry till I come in my glory: 1 And the Lord said unto me, John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if ye shall ask, what you will, it shall be granted unto you. And I said unto him, Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee. And the Lord said unto me, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desiredst this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shall prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.


& for this cause the Lord said unto Peter if I will that he tarry till I come what is that to thee For he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me but thou desiredst that thou mightest come unto me in my kingdom I say unto thee Peter this was a good desire but my beloved hath undertaken a greater work 2 And for this cause, the Lord said unto Peter:— If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? for he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me: but thou desiredst that thou might speedily come unto me in my kingdom: I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has undertaken a greater work. 2 And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me; but thou desiredst that thou might speedily come unto me in my kingdom. I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work, yet among men than what he has before done; yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore, I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel: he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth; and I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James: and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.
Verily I say unto you ye shall both have according to your desires for ye both Joy in that which ye desired[16] 3 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.[17] 3 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.[18]

Reception by Latter Day SaintsEdit

The tarrying of John as described in the Account of John, resonated strongly in the early church.[4]

Just a month after the reception of the vision, Smith dictated a section in the Book of Mormon discussing the Three Nephites, disciples of Christ who "desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me." They were then granted to live "while the world shall stand."[4][19] Smith began preaching in public venues that "John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of israel who had been led away by Salmaneser King of israel, to prepare them for their return, from their Long dispersion, to again possess the land of their father's."[4]

Joseph Smith Sr., the Church's patriarch, gave hundreds of blessings to Latter-day Saints. A recurring theme was a promise similar to John, that the individual would tarry until Christ's return in glory.[4] For example, apostle Orson Pratt was told that he would "tarry till the Savior comes," and Calvin Beebe was blessed, "Thou hast asked thy God to let thee tarry till the Son of Man comes: and if thou art faithful, and keep all the commandments of the Lord thou shalt have thy desire."[4]

For Latter Day Saints the translation incidentally answers the question of the authorship of the Gospel of John, something that has been debated since at least the 2nd century.[20][4]

Steven C. Harper suggests that the parchment of John was an original source for the Gospel of John.[21]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Account of John, April 1829–C [D&C 7]," p. 13, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed June 26, 2021
  2. ^ Frank F. Judd Jr. and Terry L. Szink, “John the Beloved in Latter-day Scripture (D&C 7),” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context: The 37th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 90–107.
  3. ^ McBride, M. S., & Goldberg, J. (2016). "Revelations in context: the stories behind the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants: including insights from the Joseph Smith papers." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2016. e-book location 484 of 8763
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o MacKay, M. H., Ashurst-McGee, M., & Hauglid, B. M. (2020). Producing ancient scripture: Joseph Smith's translation projects in the development of Mormon Christianity. The University of Utah Press. pages 19-20, 105-134
  5. ^ Nicholas J. Frederick, “Of 'Life Eternal" and 'Eternal Lives': Joseph Smith's Engagement with the Gospel of John,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), 194–228.
  6. ^ Smith, J., & Marquardt, H. M. (2013). "Joseph Smith's 1828-1843 revelations" Xulon Press. e-book location 1435 of 11554
  7. ^ Ernst Haenchen, "A Commentary on the Gospel of John" trans. Robert W. Funk, 2 vols. in "Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible" ed. Robert W. Funkwith Ulrich Busse. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, 1:6-18
  8. ^ John M. Court, Ruth Edwards, and Barnabas Lindars, "The Johannine Literature" (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000, 30-79
  9. ^ Raymond F. Collins, "John (Disciple)," in "The Anchor Bible Dictionary," ed. David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992, 3:885
  10. ^ Adam Clark, "The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" New York: N. Bangs and J. Emory, 1825) 1:631
  11. ^ Ridges, D. J. (2004). Your study of the Doctrine and Covenants made easier. Section 1 through 42. Cedar Fort.
  12. ^ a b c Frank F. Judd Jr. and Terry L. Szink, “John the Beloved in Latter-day Scripture (D&C 7),” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context: The 37th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 90–107.
  13. ^ Keith H. Meservy, “New Testament Items in the Doctrine and Covenants,” in Studies in Scripture, vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 266–68; Jonn D. Claybaugh, “As Flaming Fire and a Ministering Angel,” Ensign, October 1999, 56.
  14. ^ Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas Frederick, "Joseph Smith's Seer Stones" (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2016).
  15. ^ a b D. Michael Quinn "The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power" Signature Books (November 14, 2016), location 534 of 17270
  16. ^ "Account of John, April 1829–C [D&C 7]," p. 13, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/account-of-john-april-1829-c-dc-7/1
  17. ^ "Book of Commandments, 1833," p. 18, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/book-of-commandments-1833/22
  18. ^ "Doctrine and Covenants, 1835," p. 160, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/doctrine-and-covenants-1835/168
  19. ^ 3 Nephi 28
  20. ^ F. L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 45
  21. ^ Steven C. Harper "Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants: A Guided Tour Through Modern Revelations" Section 7. Deseret Book, November 1, 2010