From the Church

What did Brigham Young actually say? Church History series examines shorthand discrepancies


Chances are you have heard of Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Who you may have not heard of is George D. Watt—the transcriber who was present for and recorded many of President Young’s teachings and published them as the Journal of Discourses.

In a new series for the Church History website, historian LaJean Purcell Carruth examines some of the discrepancies introduced into the transcriptions found in the Journal of Discourses. Carruth is a professional transcriber of documents written in Pitman shorthand, the method employed by Watt. Pitman shorthand used “straight and curved lines, circles, and other marks to represent the sounds of words spoken, and it allowed skilled reporters to quickly record a speaker’s word verbatim.”

When Carruth started to transcribe the original shorthand, she found that “the sermons published in the Journal of Discourses and in the Deseret News often differ significantly from what speakers actually said according to the original shorthand record.”

In the first installment of the series, Carruth discusses why the differences may exist. The second part of the series discusses some of the changes, such as changes in first person to second or third person and grammatical changes. The third part of the series continues to address some of the changes, such as changing questions to statements (and vice versa), added and omitted text, and more.

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the series from the Church History website.  

► You may also like: Video: Church historians openly discuss Brigham Young's strengths and weaknesses

Lead image: Intellectual Reserve, Inc. 

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content