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

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

    In her previous post, Church History Department historian LaJean Carruth highlighted significant grammatical changes that shorthand reporters made to their transcriptions of sermons published in the Journal of Discourses. Here, in the last post of a three-part miniseries, she shares examples of other changes which dramatically altered the sermons.

    In part one and part two of this series, I discussed how George D. Watt (and other shorthand transcriptionists) had made changes to their transcriptions of Brigham Young’s sermons, altering their grammar—and in so doing, altering their meaning.  However, those were not the only changes that Watt and others made in the transcription process of early Church leaders’ sermons.

    Changing questions to statements (and vice versa)

    In the original shorthand report of Young’s sermons, he is often reported to have addressed the congregation with rhetorical questions, questions which Watt and other reporters frequently converted into statements as they transcribed. Here, Young reportedly discusses how many Saints became disillusioned through the difficult journey across the plains. Watt changes the question at the end of this quote (“do any of you / feel in this way that have come across plains this season[?]”) to a statement (“This is a representation of the feelings of some who have / crossed the plains this season”). The question invites thoughtful introspection, inviting the listeners to consider whether or not they did indeed feel this way. The statement, on the other hand, is harsher, a judgment, telling the congregation that they did indeed feel that way.1

    Brigham Young, 6 October 1853

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Watt’s longhand transcription

    Journal of Discourses

    it seems as though the hardship they passed through

    It seems as though the hardships they pass through, in coming to this land,

    It seems as though the hardships they pass through, in coming to this land,

    had driven every spark of light of Christ out of their hearts

    banished every partical of the light of Christ out of their hearts.

    banish nearly every particle of the light of Christ out of their minds.

    if you started with the influence of the Holy Spirit who prevented you from keeping it

    If you started on your journey with the influence of the Holy Spirit warming your hearts, who prevented you from retaining it every day of your life?

    If you started on your journey with the influence of the Holy Spirit warming your hearts, who prevented you from retaining it every day of your life?

    . . .

    . . .

    . . .

    do any of you feel in this way that have come across plains this season

    A reThis is A representation of the feelings of some who have crossed the plains this season.

    This is a representation of the feelings of some who have crossed the plains this season.

    . . .

    . . .

    . . .

    [8/10?]2 of them turned around and apostatized that we helped over and great many of them joined the mob

    eight-tenths of them have turned away from the Church, and a number of them joined the mob, and sought to dye their hands in our blood.

    eight-tenths of them have turned away from the Church, and a number of them joined the mob, and sought to dye their hands in our blood.

    In the quote below, the opposite happens: Watt changes his original shorthand record of Brigham Young’s statement (“we have got the truth true principles of Christianity”) into a question (“Have you got true principles of Christianity?”). In the original shorthand record, Young quotes members of other Christian denominations who state they have “true principles of Christianity.” He accepts their statement, then adds that any truth they have is also his. When Watt changes this statement to a question, the speaker becomes Young himself, instead of other Christians, and instead of accepting their statement that they have “the true principles of Christianity,” he asks them if they have any truth.3

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

    Brigham Young, 24 July 1853

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Watt’s longhand transcription

    Journal of Discourses

    yes my brethren sisters every man and woman shall have revelation and I can say with old Moses would God that the people all prophets and prophetesses and this is our right

    Yes, my Bren and Sisters here, both men and woman have revelation; and I can say with Moses of old I would to God that the Lords people were all prophets.

    Yes, my brethren and sisters here, both men and women, have revelation, and I can say with Moses of old—“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.”

    but says they we have got the truth true principles of Christianity very good it is mine

    Have you got true principles of Christianity? They are mine.

    Have you got true principles of Christianity? They are also mine.

    Text is added to the Journal of Discourses that is not in the shorthand record, and text in the shorthand record is omitted from the Journal of Discourses 

    As Watt and other reporters transcribed, they frequently added material that had no related content in the shorthand.

    Brigham Young, 17 April 1853

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    we see the starry heavens we know but little about them our astronomers give us something of idea of them they tell us great stars

    We see the spangled vault of the starry heavens stretched over us; but little is known of the wonders of the firmament.

    what are these

    Astronomers have, by their researches, discovered some general facts that have proved useful and instructing to the scientific portion of mankind. The phenomena of the motions of the heavenly bodies, and their times and seasons are understood pretty accurately.

    worlds

    But who knows what those distant planets are? Who can tell the part they play in the grand theater of worlds?

    The lengthy additions could be seen as weakening the directness of Young’s discourse. The more complex grammar and style of the addition is indicative of written text rather than spontaneously spoken words.

    Orson Pratt, 14 August 1859

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    [they] were driven out in cold winter by the enemies and across the Mississippi into Illinois they came into Illinois they purchased a tract of country there and began to build a city called Nauvoo

    In 1839, they were driven out of Missouri into Illinois. In 1844, the great Prophet of this last dispensation was murdered while under the pledged protection of the Governor of Illinois. In the winter of 1846, some fifteen or twenty thousand were forcibly expelled from their homes in Illinois. In the summer following, the sick, and the poor, and the aged, whose circumstances had not permitted them to accompany their brethren, were cannonaded out of Nauvoo. In the midst of these most inhuman and dreadful persecutions, the United States called for five hundred of these suffering, wandering exiles to leave their families upon the Plains in the midst of wild savages, without shelter or food, to fight the battles of the nation against Mexico. In 1847, after incredible hardships and suffering, the Saints arrived in these mountains.

    by and by the devil made war on them again he did not know I suppose that all these persecutions was going help the kingdom early on he thought if he could only get them routed it would

    The object of our persecutors in driving us here was to

    break up the kingdom of God

    destroy the kingdom.

    Here, Watt’s lengthy addition contains historical information that is not in any way present in the shorthand. In my opinion the addition of these historical details reduces the power of Young’s plain, quick, direct statement and distracts the reader. This addition is also in a complex style that is indicative of written text, rather than spoken words.

    Brigham Young, 31 August 1875

    David Evans’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    fix up house make convenience wherever there is something wanted

    fix up the house and make it more convenient for the wives and the children. A certain portion of the time should also be spent in storing their minds with useful knowledge, reading the Bible, Book of Mormon, and other Church works, and histories, scientific works and other useful books.

    why I have seen people living year after year in log houses nothing so much as a nail to hang a broom on

    I have seen people live year after year in a log house, with never so much as a nail to hang a broom on

    Here, Young encourages the people to fix up their homes, a common topic in his sermons. His statement instructs the congregation to improve their living conditions—a temporal matter. In the Journal of Discourses version, however, the emphasis expands to include spiritual matters too. Here again, note that the addition is in a style indicative of written, rather than spoken, words.

    Many of the scriptures in particular that appear in the Journal of Discourses are transcriber or editorial additions with no related content in the shorthand.4

    Brigham Young, 18 June 1865

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    he created him [Adam] just as you and I created our children precisely for there is no other process in heaven on earth under it or in all the eternities that is were or ever will be

    He created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be.

    As the Apostle Paul has expressed it, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man’s device.”5

    Reporters also left out portions of sermons, either failing to transcribe material or transcribing it but not including it in the Journal of Discourses. Watt would also transcribe passages only to later cross them out; other passages were not transcribed at all. For example, in the following passage, Watt completely omits Young’s statement supporting Adam and Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit:

    Brigham Young, 11 September 1859

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    we recollect when we was in sectarian world [we would say] if I been Eve I think I would not have partaken of the fruit    you would     if you had not we would not have wanted you for my Mother Eve     the work could not [have] been accomplished if she had not eaten   [we would say] if I had been Adam I would not have eaten     I would knowing what I know now.

    [No related content in Journal of Discourses]

    Here, Long omits the reason why many lament the Fall (that is, because it brought about illness and physical pain):

    Brigham Young, 12 June 1864

    John V. Long’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    sin has got into the world and many of you have a head ache or tooth ache how came sin into the world

    O that our fathers had not have sinned        and it is all nonsense and if we had have been there and they had not we should have sinned      I will not blame Adam nor Eve   why because it was necessary that sin should enter into the world

    Some may regret that our first parents sinned. This is nonsense. If we had been there, and they had not sinned, we should have sinned. I will not blame Adam or Eve, why? Because it was necessary that sin should enter into the world.

    . . .

    . . .

    he knew they would do it        he meant they should       it was understood

    The Lord knew they would do this, and He had designed that they should.

    Here, Watt completely omits Young’s testimony of Joseph Smith:

    Orson Pratt, 2 January 1859, on the Book of Mormon

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    this book professes to be sent forth as a divine revelation from God through his servant Joseph Smith who professes to be a prophet and whom the Lord has raised up as a prophet it was through the instrumentality of that man and the instrumentality of this divine revelation as we consider it that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded and organized upon this earth

    This book professes to be sent forth as a Divine revelation from God.

    if the Book of Mormon be false as many of our opposers say and declare if it be an imposition then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an imposition also and our hope is vain and our faith is vain

    If it be an imposition, as many of our opposers say, then this Church is an imposition also, and our faith and hope are vain.

    Where the original longhand transcription is extant, it becomes clear that the omissions were made during the process of transcribing shorthand into longhand. Watt either crossed out what he had transcribed, as in the following example, or did not transcribe the passage at all.6

    Brigham Young, 9 October 1852

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Watt’s longhand transcription

    Journal of Discourses

    a few ideas to see if we have taken the right track and if these

    A plan by which these

    a plan by which these

    matters of business transactions can be brought to system to

    matters of buisness transactions can be brought to some kind of A system to the better the Condition accommadation of of the public

    matters of business transactions can be brought to some kind of a system, to the better accommodation of the public.

    better condition of community my proposition be this I say to this community you that came here five years ago four years ago 3 years ago two years ago to those that have come here this season       to all the people in valleys of mountains I will propose when this people comes here to these valleys

    My proposition is would be this, I say to their Community, that part of it that came here 5 years ago, or 4, 3 or 2 years ago and I will ask of those who have come to these vallies since then; if all the people in the vallies of the mountians I will propose.  I will supose When strangers come here to these vallies,

    We will suppose, when strangers come to these valleys,

    Shorthand records and the Journal of Discourses have little relation to each other

    In many instances, the text of the Journal of Discourses is almost completely different from the shorthand record, featuring text that was not reported in the original shorthand record. Here, Watt omits what Young said about ladies courting during leap year and replaces it with a completely unrelated statement about home industry:

    Brigham Young, 6 April 1868, afternoon

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    in some respects the ladies have an advantage over the gentlemen

    this year being leap year and soon they get up a party they quibble about having two wives though be sure to get two three gentiles gentlemen with you    if the case altered the ones complain now be the forward ones in the forward rank to take the lead in plurality      I say to the sisters thanks to you when I go to your parties you will not let me remain long as a wall flower long although I would like to be

    This is leap year; let the ladies take the lead in this and every other species of home industry at which they can be employed.

    Here, Watt replaced Young’s informal suggestion of what the Apostle Paul might say about supporting himself while preaching the gospel with a scripture that is not in the shorthand at all:

    Brigham Young, 16 September 1860

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    It may be asked,

    what would you say to the words of old Paul if Paul was here he would say I don’t want any of your money and means I am worker I can make ditches and fence your farms and go to canyons and get out wood and lumber      and he turned around and ask him to preach the gospel I don’t know I can’t stay 30 years      he might preach to 40 50 years and then say to the people I have been chargeable to none I sustain myself that is what is written now

    “What do you say to the following words of Paul?—‘Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and so remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”7


    These changes occur in other speakers’ sermons too. The shorthand record and the Journal of Discourses version of Parley P. Pratt’s discussion of the thief on the cross who appealed to Christ during the Crucifixion differ significantly8:

    Parley P. Pratt, 7 April 1853

    George D. Watt’s shorthand

    Journal of Discourses

    what other go there for he went there in state of ignorance in a state uncultivated state not justified

    What did the thief go there for? He went there in a state of ignorance, and sin, being uncultivated, unimproved, and unprepared for salvation. He went there to be taught, and

    to complete that repentance which really he had begun on the earth  and to be instructed by this very teacher that was there with him because he applied to him in this world when it was too late too be instructed in this world it was put off  the same as I would speak to my brethren of priesthood I feel so and so but say nothing at doors few minutes can't talk about it now could Christ not being on the cross when dying to preach and teach he finished that in days of his flesh therefore it was put away

    to complete that repentance, which in a dying moment he commenced on the earth. He had beheld Jesus expire on the cross, and he had implored him to remember him when he should come into possession of his kingdom. The Savior under these extreme circumstances, did not then teach him the Gospel,

    we see each other not in next world if in next world the poor thief be taught and complete that repentance began at his death perhaps

    but referred him to the next opportunity, when they should meet in the spirit world. If the

    sometime or other leave world of spirits

    thief thus favored continued to improve, he is no doubt waiting in hope for the signal to be given, at the sound of the next trump, for him to leave the spirit world, and to reenter the fleshly tabernacle, and to ascend to a higher degree of felicity.

    I am frequently asked why Watt, Long, Evans, and others altered their shorthand as they did. As I mentioned in part one of this series, we don’t fully know. The fact that these shorthand writers often made changes as they transcribed shows us that the concept of historical accuracy back then was very different than it is now; unfortunately, in most cases, we still do not know what the transcribers’ motives were for these changes—they left no explanation. We can, at least, see what changes were made.

    These patterns of differences between the shorthand record and the Journal of Discourses are significant. They alter the shorthand record of the speaker’s words; and they present words and teachings that were likely not part of the original delivery. The words in the shorthand record also often depict the personality of Brigham Young and others very differently than the words in the transcripts and published discourses. In light of what these comparisons reveal, readers must approach any content in the Journal of Discourses as possibly—indeed, likely—an altered version of what was recorded in the original shorthand record, unless they can verify otherwise through the original shorthand record. Many additional transcriptions of items from the original shorthand record can be found here.

    Top Image: Brigham Young (1801–77)