LDS Perspectives: In Brigham Young’s Words

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Brigham Young's words title graphic

In its first doubleheader, LDS Perspectives Podcast presents an episode covering the discrepancies between the shorthand versions of speeches of early LDS Church leaders in Utah and their published versions. First, Russell Stevenson interviews Gerrit Dirkmaat about the research he and LaJean Carruth did comparing the shorthand notes of George Watt to some of the speeches in the Journal of Discourses.

In their research, they examined hundreds of sermons, and sometimes the sermons and original transcriptions varied by hundreds of words. Dirkmaat points out that when one is talking about doctrine, words matter. While the essence of these speeches are similar in the shorthand and published versions, the words used vary greatly.

The Journal of Discourses has historical and religious value, but Dirkmaat urges members to be careful quoting specific passages and to realize that in most cases, there is no way to know the specific words used.

LaJean Purcell Carruth has an unusual skill: she can read the shorthand of George Watt, the transcriber of the speeches contained in the Journal of Discourses, his private printing venture.

Over the past thirty years, she has learned his distinctive style—the unique upturns and curves he made in his notations. As she transcribed his notes, she noticed that they varied-—sometimes greatly—from the printed versions of the same speeches. She wrote a poem about what she noticed:

There was a man named George Watt,

Who could improve Brigham Young, so he thought.

So he took out words here,

And he added words there,

And his accuracy was not what it ought.

LaJean Purcell Carruth©

LaJean expounds on what she has learned about the speaking styles of early religious leaders. They spoke extemporaneously and without notes and were more prone to engage in speculative theology than current leaders.

She emphasizes that Brigham Young was a powerful speaker. He cared about the people, and they knew that he cared about them. When George Watt changed Brigham Young’s words, he changed what Brigham Young said about himself. She feels the real Brigham Young has been lost to us as we view him through his discourses printed in the Journal of Discourses.

In her research, she discovered that the “one drop” phrase attributed to Brigham Young by Wilford Woodruff did not exist in the original shorthand transcription of George Watt on a speech relating to the priesthood and temple ban.

LaJean shares with Laura Harris Hales what she has learned about Brigham Young from the words left out of the Journal of Discourses and other important speeches.

Listen to the podcast here…

 

…or at the LDS Perspectives website.

Don’t miss the upcoming February podcast:

2/22/17 — Depression and Mental Health Myths — Brian Murdock

Gale Boyd is the copy editor for More Good Foundation. She is a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has lived all over the world. She has raised 6 Third Culture Kids and is always homesick for somewhere.