From Historian to Dissident
Bruce N. Westergren, editor
The Book of John Whitmer
[Kept by Comndt.]
Preparing the Way
[p.3]I shall proceed to continue this record, being commanded of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to write the things that transpire in this church, (inasmuch as they come to my knowledge,) in these last days. It is now June the twelfth one thousand eight hundred and thirty one years since the coming of our Lord and Savior, in the flesh.
Not many days after my brethren, Oliver Cowdery,1 Peter Whitmer, Jr.2 Parley P. Pratt,3 and Ziba Peterson4: Received a commandment of the Lord, through Joseph Smith Jr.,5 to take their journey to the Lamanites, and preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior, among them, and establish the church of Christ among them. They journeyed as far West as the State of Ohio; and through the divine influences of the Holy Spirit, by the assistance of the Lord, they built a branch of the church, in Geauga Co. State of Ohio, which consisted of about one hundred and thirty members.6
And now it came to pass, that before they proceeded, on their journey from this place [Geauga County], There was a man whose name was Sidney Rigdon,7 he having been an instrument in the hands of the Lord of doing much good. He [p.4]was in search of truth, consequently he received the fulness of the gospel with gladness of heart, even the book of Mormon; it being what he was in search after, notwithstanding it was some days before he obtained a witness from the Lord, of the truth of his work. After several days the Lord heard his cries, and answered his prayers, and by vision showed to him, that this eminated from him [God] and must remain, it being the Fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, first unto the Gentiles and then unto the Jews.
Now it came to pass, after sidney Rigdon,
and <was> received into this church, that he was ordained an Elder, under the hands of Oliver Cowdery. He having much anxiety to see Joseph Smith Jr. the seer whom the Lord had raised up in these last days. Therefore he took his Journey to the State of New York where Joseph Resided.
There was another man whose name is Edward Partridge,8 who was also desirous, to see the Seer, Therefore, he accompanied Sidney, and journeyed with him, to behold this man of God even Joseph Smith Jr. he being desirous to know the truth of these things: But not having confidence enough to inquire at the hand of God, Therefore he sought testimony of man, and he obtained it, and received the truth and obeyed the divine requirements, and was also ordained an Elder unto this church, to preach repentance and remission of Sins, unto this idolertrous generation.
Therefore, after Sidney Rigdon had been at Palmyra a few days he proclaimed the gospel, in those regions rount about, at which the people stood trembling and amased, so powerful were his words, and some obeyed, the gospel, and came forth out of the water, rejoicing with Joy which is <unspeakable and> full of glory. From thence he journeyed to Fayette, where Joseph lived, and there he also proclaimed [p.5]the gospel, and in the regions round about <and> there were numbers added.
Now in these days Sidney Rigdon was desirous to have the Seer enquire of the Lord, to know what the will of the Lord was concerning him. Accordingly Joseph enquired of the Lord, and these are the words that were spoken to him, saying9: Listen to the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same to day as yesterday and for ever. I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe in my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one.
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney Rigdon, I have looked upon thee and thy works, I have heard thy prayers and prepared thee for a greater work. Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth even as John, to prepare the way before me, and before Elijah which should come, and thou knew it not. Thou didst baptize by water unto repentance, but they received not the holy Ghost; but now I give unto you a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.
And it shall come to pass, that there shall be a great work in the land even among the Gentiles, for their folly and obaminati[ons] shall be made manifest, in the eyes of all people: for I am God and mine arm is not shortened and I will show miracles, signs and wonders, unto all those who believe in my name. And whoso shall ask it in my name, in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk: and the time Speedily cometh that [p.6]great things shall be shown unto the children of men: but without faith shall not any thing be shown forth, except desolation upon Babylon, the same which has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And there are non[e] that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the fulness of the gospel, which I have sent forth to this generation.
Wherefore, I have called upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit: and their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler, and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfulley for me: and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf; and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them. And the poor and the meek shall have the gosple preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand: and they shall learn the parable of the fig tree: for even now already summer is nigh, and I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph: and in weakness have I blessed him, and I have given unto him the Keys of the mysteries of these things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.
Wherefore, watch over him that his faith fail not, and it shall be given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things: and a commandment I give unto thee, that thou shalt write for him: and the scriptures shall be given <even> as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect: for they will hear my voice, and shall see me, and shall not be asleep, and shall abide the day of my coming, [p.7]for they shall be purified even as I am pure. And now I say unto you, tarry with him and he shall journey with you: forsake him not and surely these things shall be fulfilled. And inasmuch as ye do not write, behold it shall be given unto him to prophesy: and thou shalt preach my gospel, and call on the holy prophets, to prove his words, as they shall be given him.
Keep all the commandments and covenants by which you are bound, and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good: and Satan shall tremble; and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills, and flourish; and Israel shall be saved in my own due time. And by the keys by which <I> have have given, shall they be led and no more be confounded at all. Lift up your hearts and be glad: your redemption draweth nigh. Fear not little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come. Behold I come quickle, even so: Amen.
Now, after the Lord had made known, what he wanted that his servant Sidney should do, he went to writing the things which the Lord showed unto his servant the Seer. The Lord made known, some of the hidden things of
the kingdom of God; for he unfolded the prophesy of Enoch the sevanth from Adam.10 After they had written this prophecy, the Lord spake to them again, and gave further directions.11 Behold I say unto you, that it is not expedient in me that ye should translate any more until ye shall go to the Ohio; and this because of the enemy and for your sakes. And again, I say unto you, that ye shall not go until ye have preached the <my> gospel in these parts, and have strengthened up the church, whithersoever it is found, and more especially in Colesville for behold they pray unto me in much faith.
And again, a commandment I give unto the church, that it is expedient in me that they should assemble together at the Ohio, against the time that my Servant Oliver Cowdery shall [p.8]return unto them. Behold here is wisdom, and let every man choose for himself until I come; even so: Amen.
After the above directions were received, Joseph and Sidney went to the several churches preaching and propheceing wherever they went, and greatly strengthened the churches that were built unto the Lord. Joseph prophesied saying: God is about to destroy this generation, and Christ will descend from heaven in power and great glory, with all the holy angels with him to take vengeance upon the wicked and they that know not God: Sidney preached the gospel and proved his words from the holy prophets; and so powerful were their words, that the people who heard them speak were amased, and trembled, and knew not whereunto this thing would grow. The adversary of all righteousness being crafty, and beguiled the people, and stirred them up to anger, against the words spoken, and has blinded their eyes and is leading them down to darkness, and misery and wo! This generation abounds in ignorance, superstition, selfishness, idoletry, and priestcraft, for this generation is truly led by priests, even hireling priests whose god is the substance of this worlds goods which waxeth old and is begining to fade away who look for their hire every one from his quarter.
Because of the abominations that are abroad in the world, it is hard for those who receive the fulness of the gospel, and came into the new and everlasting covenant <to> get clear of the traditions of their forefathers: and are [slow] to be made to believe the commandments that came forth in these last days for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God, and the salvation of those who believe.
The time had now come for the general conference to be held [in Fayette, New York]. Which was the first of January 1831.12 <and> according to this appointment the saints assembled themselves together. After transacting the [p.9]necessary business, Joseph the seer addressed the congregation, and exhorted them to stand fast; looking forward considering the end of their salvation. The solemnities of eternity rested on the congregation, and having previously received a revelation to go to Ohio,13 they desired to know somewhat more concerning this matter. Therefor, the Seer enquired of the Lord in the presence of the whole congregation, and thus came the word of the Lord saying14:
Thus saith the Lord God, even Jesus Christ the great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The same which looked upon the wide expance of eternity, and all the seraphic host of heaven, before the world was made; the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes. I am the same which spake and the world was made, and all things came by me: I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom, and verily I say, even as many as have believed on my name, for I am Christ, and in my own name by virtue the of the blood which I have spilt, have I plead before the Father for them; But behold the residue of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness, until the judgment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the earth, and even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts, and wo, wo, wo is their doom.
Behold, verily, verily I say unto you, that mine eyes are upon you; I am in your midst and ye cannot see me, but the day cometh that ye shall see me and know that I am: for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day: Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold the kingdom is yours, and
ye <enemy> shall not overcome.
Verily I say unto you, ye are clean but not all, and there is none else with whom I am well pleased, for all flesh is corrup-[p.10]table before me, and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven, which causes silence to reign, and all eternity is pained; and the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned: and behold the enemy is combined.
And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction, in process of time, and ye knew it not, but now I tell it unto you, not because of your iniquity, neither your hearts of unbelief, for verily some of you are guilty before me; but I will be merciful unto your weakness. Therefore be ye strong from henceforth; fear not for the kingdom is yours: and for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respector of persons. And I have made the earth rich, and behold
I have made the earth rich it is my footstool: wherefore, again I will stand upon it: and I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise; a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh: and I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts: and this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children for ever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity no more to pass away.15
But verily I say unto you, that in time ye shall have no King nor ruler, for I will be your King and watch over you—Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and ye shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws, when I come, for I am your Lawgiver, and what can stay my hand? But verily I say unto you, teach one another according to the office wherewith I have [p.11]appointed you, and let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holyness before me. And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself; for what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respector to them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one, be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other, be thou clothed in raggs and sit thou there, and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just.
Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am: I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine. And again I say unto you, that the enemy in the secret chamber seeketh your lives; Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of them in your own land: I tell you these things because of your prayers: Wherefore treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you, by their wickedness in a manner which
will <shall> speak in your ears, with a voice louder than that which shall shake [the] earth: but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
And that you might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless: wherefore for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio: and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high, and from thence, whomsoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do: for I have a great work laid up in store: for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand.
And now I give unto the church in these parts, a commandment, that certain men among them shall be appointed, and [p.12]they shall be appointed by the voice of the church, and they shall look to the poor and administer to their releaf, that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them, and this shall be their work, to govern the affairs of the property of this church. And they that have farms that cannot be sold, let them be left or rented, as seemeth them good. See that all things are preserved, and when men are endowed with power from on high, and sent forth, all these things shall be gathered unto the bosom of the church.
And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people; for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth is mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old. And again I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that Elder, Priest, Teacher, and
people, also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded. And let your preaching be the warning voice, every one to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness. And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord; even so: Amen.
After the Lord had manifested the above words, through Joseph the Seer, there were some divisions among the congregation, some would not receive the above as the word of the Lord: but [held] that Joseph had invented it himself to deceive the people that in the end he might get gain. Now this was because, their hearts were not right in the sight of the Lord, for they wanted to serve God and man; but our Savior has declared that it was impossible to do so.
The conference was now closed, and the Lord had manifested his will to his people. Therefore they made preperations to Journey to the Ohio, with their wives, and children and all [p.13]that they possessed, to obey the commandment of the Lord. After these things were done Joseph and Sidney went to Colesville16 to do the will of the Lord in that part of the land and to strengthen the disciples in that part of the vineyard, and preach the gosple to a hardened and a wicked people, and it is fearful that they are all delivered over to the hardness of heart and blindness, so that they cannot be brought to repentance. For when Sidney and the Revelator arrivd there, they held prayer meetings, among the disciples, and they also held public meetings but it was all in vain, they threatend to kill them. Therefore, they knew that they were not fit for the Kingdom of God, and well nigh ripe for destruction. The Spirit of the Lord fell upon Sidney, and he spoke with boldness, and he preached the gospel in its purity; but they laughed him to scorn, he being filled, with the Holy Spirit, he cried aloud O ye heavens give ere and ye angels attend, I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ that this people is sealed up to everlasting destruction. And immediately he left them and escaped out of their hands. And his enemies were astonished and amazed at the doctrine which he preached, for they taught as men having authority and not as hireling priests.
After Joseph and Sidney returned from Colesville to Fayette. The Lord manifested himself to Joseph the Revelator and gave commandment for me [John Whitmer] to go to the Ohio, and carry the commandments and revelations, with me, to comfort and strengthen my brethren in that land.17 The disciples had increased in number about three hundred. But the enemy of all righteous had got hold of Some of those who profesed to <be> his followers, because they had not sufficient knowledge to detect him in all his devices. He took anotion to blind the minds of some of the weaker ones, and made them think that an angel of God appeard to them, and showed them [p.14]writings ond the outside cover of the Bible, and on parchment, which flew through the air, and on the back of their hands, and many such foolish and vain things. Others lost their strength, and some
scooted <slid> ond the floor, and such like maneuvers, which proved greatly to the injury of the cause.18
The Lord also worked and many embrased the work, and the honest in heart stand firm and immovable. It was very nessary that this people should have instruction, and learn to decern between the things of God and the works of Satan. For the inhabitants of the earth knew nothing of the working of the Spirit of the Lord, in these days.
1. Oliver Cowdery was born on October 3, 1806, in Wells, Rutland County, Vermont. He became acquainted with the Book of Mormon through stories he heard circulating in the Manchester, New York, area, where he was teaching school. Joseph Smith, Sr., the prophet’s father, was one of the families who sent children to the school. Cowdery thus became acquainted with the Smith family and later went to board at their house. Here he became convinced of the divinity of the Book of Mormon plates and their contents and began writing as a scribe for their translation in April 1829. With Joseph Smith, Cowdery reported that he received the priesthood from angels a few months later. He also became one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon and a charter member of the church on April 6, 1830. He was the first scribe to assist Smith with his new translation of the Bible. On April 3, 1836, again with Smith, Cowdery received the keys of the priesthood from Elijah, Elias, and Moses as part of the Kirtland temple dedication ceremony.
Cowdery led the first proselyting mission to the Lamanites (American Indians) in the Missouri region in the winter of 1830-31, returning to Ohio in August 1831. He was ordained [p.15]to the high priesthood on 29 August 1831 by Sidney Rigdon. Assigned the task of taking the money and text of the revelations to Missouri for publication, Cowdery was accompanied by John Whitmer. On December 18, 1832, Cowdery married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, a sister of John Whitmer; they had six children.
Cowdery served on the Kirtland high council and assisted in administering church affairs during the summer of 1834 while Joseph Smith was in Missouri. He was ordained assistant president of the church on December 5, 1834, then returned to Missouri in 1837, arriving in Far West on October 20. Cowdery was excommunicated for apostasy on April 12, 1838, at Far West, Missouri. He went on to practice law in Ohio and Wisconsin. He was rebaptized by Orson Hyde on November 12, 1848. He died on March 3, 1850, while visiting David Whitmer in Missouri. See Cook, Revelations, 14; Anderson, Witnesses, 37-65; and LDSBE, 1:246-51.
2. Peter Whitmer, Jr., was born on September 27, 1809, at Fayette, New York, and baptized and ordained an elder by Oliver Cowdery sometime around June 9, 1830. One of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, Peter was called on a proselyting mission to accompany Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, and Parley P. Pratt on the first Lamanite mission in Missouri. The group left New York sometime in the latter part of October 1830 and arrived in the Kirtland, Ohio, area by November 1. The group made a number of converts in the Kirtland area.
Whitmer and his fellow missionaries arrived in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, on December 13, 1830. While there, Whitmer worked as a tailor. The group returned to Kirtland in October 1831.
Whitmer married Vashti Higley on October 14, 1832, in Jackson County, Missouri. The ceremony was performed by Oliver Cowdery. They had three children.
He died of tuberculosis near Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, on September 22, 1836 (Cook, Revelations, 26-27; LDSBE, 1:277).
Parley, formerly a Campbellite minister, was baptized and ordained an elder in the LDS church in September 1830. He was appointed to travel with Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Ziba Peterson on the first Lamanite mission to Missouri in October 1830. The group stopped at the home of Sidney Rigdon, a former Campbellite associate of Pratt, and presented him with a copy of the Book of Mormon. After baptizing Rigdon on November 14, 1830, and establishing a branch of the church in the area, the missionaries continued on to Missouri, arriving in Independence, Missouri, on December 13, 1830. Pratt returned to Kirtland, Ohio, about March 1, 1831, to make his report to the presidency of the church. In March 1831 he was called on a mission to the Shakers, then ordained a high priest on June 3.
Pratt returned to Jackson County, Missouri, as a resident in 1831, and was sent in company with Lyman Wight to Kirtland on January 1, 1834, to counsel with the First Presidency on regaining church land in Jackson County. They arrived around February 24, 1834. The result of this trip was the organization of Zion’s Camp, a Mormon militia, which marched to Missouri in 1834.
In 1836 Pratt participated in the dedication of the Kirtland temple. He was appointed a member of the Clay County high council on July 8, 1834, and on February 21, 1835 to Pennsylvania, New York, and New England, and in 1836 to Toronto. In 1837-38 Pratt returned to New York on another mission. During this period he published his first LDS missionary tract, A Voice of Warning.
Pratt left on a proselyting mission to England with the rest of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles on August 29, 1839, ar-[p.17]riving on April 6, 1840. While there he served as the first editor of The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, published in Manchester. In July 1840 he returned to the United States for his family before going back and resuming the editorial reins of the Millennial Star.
Pratt published a number of other church-related works in his lifetime, including the newspaper The Prophet in New York City (1844-45). He also composed hymns, many of which are found in the current LDS hymn book.
His first wife, Thankful Halsey, died on March 25, 1837. On May 9 Pratt married Mary Ann Frost. They had four children. He also married Elizabeth Brotherton on July 24, 1843; Mary Wood on September 9, 1844; Hannahette Snively on November 2, 1844; Belinda Marden, November 20, 1844; 1846; Martha Monks, April 28, 1847; Ann Agatha Walker, April 28, 1847; Keziah Downes, December 27, 1853; and Eleanor J. Macomb, November 14, 1855.
Pratt was called on a mission to the Southern States in December 1856. He was murdered by the jealous husband of one of his wives on May 13, 1857, in Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas (Cook, Revelations, 45-47; LDSBE, i:83-85; see also Pratt, Autobiography).
4. Ziba Peterson was baptized on April 18, 1830, by Oliver Cowdery and ordained an elder sometime before June 9. He was appointed to accompany Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Parley P. Pratt on a proselyting mission to Missouri in October 1830. They arrived in Independence, Missouri, on December 13, 1830, and immediately found employment. Peterson went with Peter Whitmer, Jr., to preach to Indians across the Missouri River on April 8, 1831, and later that month went with Oliver Cowdery to preach to anglo settlers residing in Lafayette County, Missouri. Peterson was reprimanded for impropriety on August 1, 1831, made confession on the 4th, and married Rebecca Hopper, a convert from Lafayette County, Missouri, on the 11th. Peterson became disaffected sometime early in 1833. He was excommunicated on June 25, 1833, and left Missouri for California with his family on May 3, 1848. He died in Placerville, Eldorado County, California, sometime after January but before June 1849 (Cook, Revelations, 45).
5. Joseph Smith, Jr., was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, a son of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith. At the age of ten, he moved with his family to the town of Palmyra, New York. Here he joined with his father and brothers in tending the family farm. From approximately September 1827 to mid-1829 he dictated the Book of Mormon, which he published in March 1830. The following April 6 he organized the Church of Christ. He married Emma Hale on January 18, 1827, in Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Controversy followed Smith wherever he went. Leaving New York for Ohio early in 1831, he and the rest of the Saints established new homes for themselves and a new headquarters for the church in Kirtland. Among the trials of the period, during the night of March 24, 1832, Smith and Sidney Rigdon were dragged from their homes, beaten, and tarred and feathered.
The prophet and some other leaders left for Missouri in January 1838. Joseph and his family settled in the town of Far West. Before long the so-called “Mormon War” of 1838-39 erupted between Mormons and units of the state militia. Along with other prominent church members, Smith was arrested for treason, murder, arson, and other charges. He, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, and several others were incarcerated for the winter in the town of Liberty, Missouri. The next April he and fellow prisoners escaped while being transferred to another jail. They made their way east and joined the rest of the church in Quincy, Illinois, several days later.
In Illinois the church purchased the boggy townsite of Commerce, Hancock County, renaming it “Nauvoo.” Smith, who had passed the bar in Missouri and was studying for the p.19]Illinois bar, was elected mayor in 1842, succeeding John C. Bennett who had left the church. Smith held this office until his death in 1844. When the Nauvoo Legion, the city’s militia, was organized in 1841, Smith served as a lieutenant general. Before the Mormons left Illinois in 1846, the legion contained over 2,000 men, which was a constant source of worry to the non-Mormon population of the county.
It was the combination of independent civil and military power, along with rumors of polygamy, aggravated by the city council’s order to destroy the town’s anti-Mormon newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, that led to the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844 (Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 19771; LDSBE, 1:1-8).
6. D&C 32; see also HC, 1:118-25. For a more complete history of the mission and the church in Kirtland, see Backman, Heavens, 1-19; James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints; 2d ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992), 61-111; Max H. Parkin, “Conflict at Kirtland: A Study of the Nature and Causes of External and Internal Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966, 33-46; and Larry O. Porter, “Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 277-85.
Pratt described the results of their efforts among the Indians as follows:
We continued for several days to instruct the old chief [of the Delaware tribe] and many of his tribe. The interest became more and more intense on their part, from day to day, until at length nearly the whole tribe began to feel a spirit of inquiry and excitement on the subject.
We found several among them who could read, and to them we gave copies of the Book [of Mormon], explaining to them that it was the Book of their forefathers.
Some began to rejoice exceedingly, and took great pains to tell [p.20]the news to others, in their own language.
The excitement now reached the frontier settlements in Missouri, and stirred up the jealousy and envy of the Indian agents and sectarian missionaries to that degree that we were soon ordered out of the Indian country as disturbers of the peace; and even threatened with the military in case of non-compliance.
We accordingly departed from the Indian country, and came over the line [into Missouri from Kansas], and commenced laboring in Jackson County, Missouri, among the whites. We were well received, and listened to by many; and some were baptized and added to the Church.
Thus ended our first Indian Mission, in which we had preached the gospel in its fulness, and distributed the record of their forefathers among three tribes, viz: the Catteraugus Indians, near Buffalo, N.Y., the Wyandots of Ohio, and the Delawares west of Missouri (Pratt, Autobiography, 44).
After the call issued in the revelation was confirmed by a church conference at the Whitmer home in Fayette from September 26, 1830, through early October, the missionaries left New York in late October, arriving in the Kirtland area early in November. After establishing a branch of the church, they left for Missouri the first part of January 1831 and arrived sometime later that month. Shortly after they settled in the Jackson County region, Parley P. Pratt was chosen by the group to go back to Kirtland and make a report to Joseph Smith on the progress of their mission. Pratt left in late February and arrived sometime in early March 1831, returning to Missouri in June.
7. Sidney Rigdon was born on February 19, 1793, in St. Clair Township, Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. He joined the Regular Baptists and received a license to preach in March 1819, moving to Warren, Ohio, in May. He married Phoebe Brook on June 12, 1820. They became the parents of eleven children.
In 1822 the Baptists of Pittsburgh appointed Rigdon as their minister. He held that post until August 1824 when he informed the congregation that he could no longer uphold the doctrines they taught. He labored as a tanner with his brother-in-law from [p.21]1824-26.
He was again invited to become a minister, this time to the Regular Baptist church in Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio, in 1826. A year later, in 1827, he accepted a similar call in Mentor, Ohio.
It was in Mentor where Rigdon finally broke with the Baptists completely. With other major religious figures in the nineteenth century, such as Walter Scott and Alexander Campbell, Rigdon believed remission of sins and reception of the Holy Ghost followed baptism by immersion. Fellowship was withdrawn by the Mentor church in September 1828 for Rigdon’s “novel notions.” Shortly afterwards he joined with Alexander Campbell in a movement that later became known as the Disciples of Christ or “Campbellites.”
Rigdon was living in Mentor when Mormon missionaries first arrived in November 1830. Parley P. Pratt, a former associate in the Campbellite ministry, introduced him to the Book of Mormon. Rigdon was baptized on November 14, 1830. In December he traveled to Fayette, New York, to meet Joseph Smith and became completely devoted to him. He served as the prophet’s scribe for most of the work on the revision of the Bible. In February 1831 Rigdon returned to Ohio.
On June 3, 1831, Rigdon was ordained a high priest. Shortly after that he accompanied the prophet to Independence, Missouri, arriving in late July. Here on August 2 they dedicated the “land of Zion” for the gathering of the Saints.
Rigdon was ordained to the presidency of the high priesthood on March 8, 1832, and left for Missouri again in April with Smith to regulate the affairs of the church there. They returned to Kirtland on May 26, 1832. Rigdon temporarily lost his position in the High Priesthood during the summer of 1832 after preaching that the kingdom had been taken from the Saints due to Smith’s avarice; he was restored to his former office shortly afterwards. On March 18, 1833, he was ordained as a counselor in the First Presidency.
When Rigdon and Smith were dragged from their homes in [p.22]Kirtland on March 24, 1831, Rigdon was tied to the back of a horse by his heels and dragged along the frozen ground, severely injuring his head (HC, 1:261-65.)
Rigdon made many trips with the prophet, including one to Upper Canada in 1833 and to Massachusetts that fall, then back to Massachusetts again in 1836. He accompanied Smith and others to Washington, D.C., in 1839-40 to present Congress with petitions of redress for losses suffered in Missouri in 1838-39.
Along with Smith, Rigdon was also prominent in church business enterprises, such as the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Corporation in 1837. He assisted in founding Nauvoo in 1840, became a City Attorney, a member of the Nauvoo City Council, and the city’s Postmaster. He was chosen as Smith’s U.S. vice-presidential candidate in 1844.
In a way, Rigdon helped precipitate the Mormon War in Missouri of 1838-39 through his famous “Salt Sermon” in June 1838 and his 4th of July 1838 sermon. In these he threatened apostates and effectively declared war on outside antagonists. These remarks lit the fuse of an already explosive situation and provided motivation for Danite maneuvers on the part of Mormons and militia attacks through the next year on the part of non-Mormon neighbors and politicians.
After Smith was murdered in June 1844, Rigdon, in a church conference on August 8, claimed his right to act as “guardian of the Church” until Smith’s son was grown. He was rejected by the majority of the Saints, who chose instead to follow Brigham Young and the Council of Twelve Apostles. Rigdon was subsequently excommunicated on September 8. Shortly afterwards he moved to Pittsburgh and organized his own church, the Church of Christ, based on the Book of Mormon and teachings of Joseph Smith. It lasted from 1844-46. He organized a second church in 1863, the Church of Jesus of the Children of Zion. It lasted until about 1883. He and his wife were thereafter cared for by their children in Friendship, New York. He died there on July 14, 1876 (Cook, Revelations, 52-53, 129-30; Daryl Chase, [p.23]”Sidney Rigdon: Early Mormon,” M.A. thesis, University of Chicago, 1931; F. Mark McKiernan, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876 [Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1971]; Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994]; Thomas J. Gregory, “Sidney Rigdon: Post-Nauvoo,” Brigham Young University Studies 21 (Winter 1981):51-67; LDSBE, 1:31-34; Steven L. Shields, Divergent Paths of the Restoration, 4th rev. ed. [Los Angeles, CA: Restoration Research, 1990], 36-39).
8. Edward Partridge was born on August 27, 1793, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 1813, after completing four years as an apprentice, he became a journeyman hatter in Clinton, New York. He later moved to Painesville, Ohio, where he owned a hatting business. He married Lydia Clisbee on August 22, 1819. He joined the Campbellites in 1828, then in November 1830 attended meetings held in the Kirtland, Ohio, area by the LDS missionaries headed for Missouri. He accompanied Sidney Rigdon on a trip back to New York in early December to meet the prophet Joseph Smith—the trip mentioned by Whitmer in this manuscript. Satisfied with what he found, Partridge was baptized on December 11, 1830. On December 15 he was ordained an elder. He immediately left on a two-month mission to relatives in Massachusetts, returning to Ohio by February 4, 1831. He also went on a mission to the Eastern states, serving from June 2 to November 3, 1835.
On February 4, 1831, at a special conference, Partridge was ordained the first bishop in the church and a high priest on June 3, 1831. Appointed to travel to Missouri with the Prophet in June 1831, he was then directed to move his family there that August. The family settled in Jackson County, and Partridge, as bishop of the church in Zion, became responsible for administering the communal Law of Consecration. He was acknowledged as presiding officer of the church in Missouri on September 11, 1833, and remained so until the appointment of [p.24]a presidency for the church in Missouri and a high council in June 1834. Accompanied by Thomas B. Marsh, Partridge traveled to Kirtland from January 27 through April 29, 1835, to receive his temple endowment. He received his patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Sr., on May 4, 1835. In 1836 Partridge participated in the dedication of the Kirtland temple, returning to Missouri later that summer.
Partridge, who had been tarred and leathered during the night of July 20, 1833, moved his family from Jackson County to Clay County in November 1833, then to the city of Far West in the fall of 1836. He was incarcerated in November 1838 for treason, though never convicted. After his release, Partridge joined his family in Quincy, Illinois, in January 1839 and settled in Nauvoo during that summer. On October 5, 1839, at the church’s general conference, Partridge was appointed bishop of the upper ward in Nauvoo. He served in this calling until his death on May 27, 1840, in Nauvoo (Cook, Revelations, 53-54; LDSBE, 1:218-22).
9. D&C 35. For historical background and revelatory process, see Cook, Revelations, 51-53, 129-30. Whitmer follows the 1833 text of the Book of Commandments, where this revelation appears as Chapter 37. Compare Wood, 2:75-78, for text.
10. See HC 1:131-39. The “Prophecy of Enoch” is currently included as Moses 7 in the LDS edition of the Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Moses consists of a revelation given to Moses concerning the creation of the world, the fall of Adam and Eve, and the ministries of Abraham, Noah, and Enoch. See H. Donl Peterson, The Pearl of Great Price: A History and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987), 3-35.
15. Exactly what the threat was that motivated the move to Ohio is not certain. However, it is significant to note that due to the growth of the church in Kirtland because of the efforts of Parley P. Pratt and his companions as they were on their way to their mission in Missouri in 1831, a relatively large community of believers was ready in the Kirtland area to receive the New York Saints, whereas Joseph Smith’s and others’ preaching had created opponents around Fayette, Palmyra, and other parts of the state. See Backman, Heavens, 1-51.
16. Colesville’s first connection with the church was in 1826, when Joseph Smith was hired as a farmhand by Joseph Knight, Sr. The entire Knight family eventually converted to Mormonism and provided a base of support for Joseph Smith and other missionaries in the area. When the church left New York for Ohio in 1831, the Colesville Branch moved as a body and settled as a body in Kirtland. The branch maintained its corporate identity until 1836, when, following the exodus of the Saints from Clay County, Missouri, into Caldwell and other counties in the state, the members of the Colesville Branch were finally absorbed by local Missouri branches. See Porter, “Origins,” 181-86, 195-222, 296-311.
17. This may be a reference to the revelation now included in D&C 69. That revelation instructed Oliver Cowdery to take the revelations to Missouri for publication and to take Whitmer as a traveling companion. No mention is made of stopping in Ohio.
There was at this time in Kirtland, a society that had undertaken to have a community of property; it has sometimes been denominated the Morley family, as there was a number of them located on a farm owned by Captain Isaac Morley. These persons had been baptized, but had not yet been instructed in relation to their duties. A false spirit entered into them, developing their singular, extravagant and wild ideas. They had a meeting at the farm, and among them was a negro known generally as Black Pete, who became a revelator. Others also manifested wonderful developments; they could see angels, and letters would come down from heaven, they said, and they would be put through wonderful unnatural distortions. Finally on one occasion, Black Pete got sight of one of those revelations carried by a black angel, he started after it, and ran off a steep wash bank twenty-five feet high, passed through a tree top into the Chagrin river beneath. He came out with a few scratches, and his ardor somewhat cooled. Joseph Smith came to Kirtland, and taught that people in relation to their error. He showed them that the Spirit of God did not bind men nor make them insane, and that the power of the adversary which had been manifested in many instances was visible even from that cause, for persons under its influence became helpless, and were bound hand and foot as in chains, being as immovable as a stick of timber (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [Liverpool, Eng.: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1855-86; reprint ed., n.p, 1966], 11:3-4).