Preached vs. Published: Shorthand Record Discrepancies (Part 2 of 3)

    By LaJean Purcell Carruth, Church History Library historian
    11 August 2020

    In her previous post, Church History Department historian LaJean Carruth introduced us to her project: reviewing the original shorthand notes that became the Journal of Discourses. Here, in the second post of a three-part miniseries, she shares examples of how the sermons of Brigham Young and other early Church leaders changed between their delivery, transcription, and eventual publication.

    As discussed in part one, my research into George D. Watt’s shorthand records—as well as the transcriptions created by other 19th-century shorthand reporters—shows that they altered Church leaders’ words in many ways. By placing my transcription of the original shorthand notes into parallel columns alongside the reporters’ own longhand transcriptions (where extant) and the published sermons in the Journal of Discourses, the changes become obvious, offering readers a more accurate understanding of Church leaders’ words. Fifty sermons in this format are now available in the catalog, with more to come.

    What follows is a sampling of the insights that come through comparing the reporters’ original shorthand notes to their altered transcriptions.

    Changes in first person to second or third person 

    Reporters frequently changed pronouns from first person (I, we, my, our) to second person (you, your) or third person (he, she, they, his, her, their), and at times they replaced names with a pronoun.1 In doing so, they change who the speaker is, as well as the tone and meaning of the passage.

    A sample of George Watt’s longhand transcription of his shorthand; note the changes to the original sermon.

    In the passage below, for example, Brigham Young asks a question in first person plural (“do we all do this?”), but his question is changed to a statement in third person (“whether all professed Latter-day Saints do these things”) by the time it gets published in the Journal of Discourses; this occurs in other first-person statements as well. Young’s direct question invites listeners’ introspection, which the wordier, indirect question in the rewritten statement does not.

    Young’s answer to the question also changes from first person plural (“we should do it”) and second person plural (“each of you that profess to be Latter-day Saints are you really Latter-day Saints”) to third person plural (“They should do them. Are they all truly Saints who profess to be / Saints?”). These changes from “we” and “you” to “they” weakens his directive—instead of everyone, including himself, who should do these things, it is a less direct “they.” Also, “the Lord Almighty is with us and has led his people” is changed to “the Lord Almighty is with me and his people.” These changes alter the inclusive tone of Young’s statement (“we”) by putting him in a group by himself (“me”), separate from the people he addresses:

    Brigham Young, 8 July 1863

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    we believe in keeping all his commandments observing his ordinances and keeping and preserving ourselves and doing his will while we live

    We believe in making his statutes our delight, in observing his ordinances and keeping all his commandments.

    You may inquire

    do we all do this you may ask no

    whether all professed Latter-day Saints do these things. My answer is,

    we should do it    you may [do/add?] each of you that profess to be Latter-day Saints are you really Latter-day Saints     no but we should be

    They should do them. Are they all truly Saints who profess to be Saints?

    the Lord Almighty is with us2 and

    the Lord Almighty is with me and his people.

    he has led this people by the right hand of

    He has led us by the right hand of

    his power and he gives me wisdom to lead them and give them good wholesome doctrines and have to set an example them and ask them to follow it

    his power, and he gives me wisdom to lay before his people good, wholesome doctrines, and to set good examples before them.

    Similarly, in the next example Brigham Young’s inclusive “you and I” and “we” are changed to the third person “they,” creating more distance between Young, his audience, and the principle he is teaching:

    Brigham Young, 18 December 1853

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    the whole posterity of Adam and Eve will be that you and I have not done as well as we knew how that is the sin will rest upon the people now

    all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how.

    Grammatical changes

    Other differences between the shorthand transcripts and Journal of Discourses are grammatical in nature, such as changing active voice to passive voice—and vice versa. Note the shifts from active voice (“to prepare you”) to passive voice (“that you might be encouraged, and prepared”) in the quote below; here, Young tries to encourage the Saints who felt that the reality of life in Utah—Zion—did not compare with their expectations of it:

    Brigham Young, 6 October 1853

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Watt’s longhand transcript

    Journal of Discourses

    you saw the beauty and glory of Zion

    but you saw the beauty and glory of Zion, that you might be encouraged,

    but you saw the beauty and glory of Zion, that you might be encouraged,

    to prepare you to meet the afflictions of this

    and prepared to meet the afflictions sorrows, and

    and prepared to meet the afflictions,

    life that you may overcome them and prepare you to enjoy

    disappointments of this mortal life, and overcome them, and be made ready to enjoy

    sorrows and disappointments of this mortal life, and overcome them, and be made ready to enjoy the glory of the Lord as it was

    the glory the Lord first revealed to you this is to  encourage you

    the Glory of the Lord as it was revealed to you.  It was given to you for your encouragement,–

    revealed to you. It was given to you for your encouragement.

    Changing active voice to passive voice makes a passage more grammatically complex and convoluted; it also makes the speech less direct and forceful.

    In her next post, LaJean Carruth shows how shorthand transcriptionists went beyond grammatical changes, adding and subtracting text from sermons given by many early Church leaders that would later appear in the Journal of Discourses.

    Top Image: Brigham Young (1801–1877)