From History to Dissident
Bruce N. Westergren, editor
[p.37]After the above law or Revelation was received the elders went forth to proclaim repentance according to commandment, and there were numbers added to the church. The Bishop Edward Partridge visited the church in its several branches, there were some that would not receive the Law. The time has not yet come that the law can be fully established, for the disciples live scattered abroad and are not organized, our numbers are small, and the disciples untaught, consequently they understand not the things of the Kingdom. There were some of the disciples who were flattered into the church because they thought that all things were to be common, therefore they thought to glut themselves upon the labors of others.
About these days there was a woman by the name of Hubble who professed to be a prophetess of the Lord and professed to have many revelations, and knew that the Book of Mormon was true; and that she should become a teacher in the Church of Christ. She appear[ed] very sanctimonious and deceived some, who were not able to detect her in her hypocracy: others [p.38]however had a spirit of dicernment; and her folies and abominations were made manifest.1 The Lord gave Revelation that the saints might not be deceived which reads as follows.2
O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ere [ear] to the words which I shall speak unto you; for behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you, to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. And this ye shall know assuredly, that there is none other appointed unto you to receive <commandments and> revelations until he be taken if he abide in me.
But verily, verily I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him, for if it be taken from him he shall not have power, except to appoint another in his stead: and this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments: and this I give unto you that you may not be deceivd; that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received, and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.
And now, Behold I
say unto you I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together, ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and instruct my church how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given: and thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me, that inasmuch as ye do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which ye have received. Purge ye out the iniquity that is among you; sanctify yourselves before [p.39]me and if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my Servant Joseph Smith Jr. and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment and whatsoever he needeth to accomplish the work, wherewith I have commanded him: and if ye do it not, he shall remain unto them who have received him, that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me.
Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: ye are not appointed <sent forth> to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit: and ye are <to be> taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.
Hearken ye, for behold the great day of the Lord is near at hand. For the day cometh that the Lord shall utter his voice out of heaven; the heavens shall shake and the earth shall tremble, and the trump of God shall sound both long and loud, and shall say to the sleeping nations: Ye saints arise and live: Ye sinners stay and sleep until I shall call again; wherefore gird up your loins, lest ye be found among the wicked. Lift up your voices and spare not. Call upon the nations to repent, both old and young, both bond and free; saying, Prepare yourselves, for the great day of the Lord; for if I who am a man, do lift up my voice and call upon you to repent, and ye hate me, what will ye say when the day cometh when the thunders shall utter their voices from the ends of the earth speaking to the ears of all that live, saying repent, and prepare, for the great day of the Lord? Yea, and again, when the lightnings shall streak forth from the east to the west, and shall utter forth their voices unto all that live, and make the ears of all tingle, that hear these words saying, Repent ye for the great day of the Lord is come.
[p.40]And again, the Lord shall utter his voice out of heaven saying: Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. O ye nations of the earth, how often I would have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, but ye would not?
How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my Servants; and by the ministering of angels; and by mine own voice; and by the voice of thunderings; and by the voice of lightnings; and by the voice of tempests; and by the voice of earthquakes; and great hailstorms; and by the voice of famines, and pestilence of every kind; and by the great sound of a trump; and by the voice of Judgement; and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory, and honor, and the riches of eternal life; and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not! Behold the day has come, when the cup of the wrath of mine indignation is full.
Behold, verily I say unto you, that these are the words of the Lord your God; Wherefore, labor ye, labor ye, in my vineyard for the last time; for the last time call upon the inhabitants of the earth, for in my own due time it will come upon the earth in Judgment, and my people shall be redeemed, and shall reign with me on earth; for the great Millennium, which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come; for Satan shall be bound; and when he is loosed again he shall only reign for a little season, and then cometh the end of the earth: and he that liveth in righteouness, shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; and the earth shall pass away so as by fire; and the wicked shall go away into unquenchable fire; and their end no man knoweth, on earth nor ever shall know, until they come before me into judgment.
Hearken ye to these words; behold I am Jesus Christ the Savior of the World. Treasure these things up in your hearts, [p.41]and let the solemnities rest upon your minds. Be sober. Keep all the commandments: even so: Amen.
After this commandment was received the saints came to understanding on this subject, and unity and harmony prevailed throughout the church of God: and the Saints began to learn wisdom, and treasure up knowledge which they learned from the word of God, and by experience as they advanced in the way of eternal life. And Joseph Smith J. the Seer continued the translation of the holy Scriptures.3 And the word of the Lord came to Joseph Smith Junior: Saying4: Behold thus saith the Lord, unto you my Servants, it is expedient in me that the elders of my Church should be called together: from the east, and from the west from the north and from the South by letter or otherwise. And it shall come to pass that I will pour out my Spirit upon them in the day that they assemble themselves together; and it shall come to pass, that they shall go forth unto the regions round about; and preach repentance unto this people, and many shall be converted, insomuch that ye shall obtain power to organize yourselves, according to the laws of man, that your enemies may be under your feet in all things; that ye may be enabled to keep my laws, that every band may be broken wherewith the enemy seeketh to bind you. Behold I say unto you, that you must visit the poor and the needy, and administer unto their relief, that they may be kept until all things may be done according to my law which ye have received. Amen.
The translation [of the Bible] continued: And the elders were sent for according to the preceeding Revelation.
<March> June 4, 1831.5 This was a day appointed for a general Conference. from whence the elders were sent forth to preach the gospel and many were added of such as were determined to be saved.
[p.42]About this time some were sick of various diseases, and were healed by the power which was in them through Jesus Christ.
There was a tradition among some of the disciples, that those who obeyed the covenant in the last days, would never die: but by experience, they have learned to the contrary.6 In those days the Lord blessed his disciples greatly, and he gave Revelation after Revelation, which contained doctrine, instructions, and prophecies: The word of the Lord came to the Seer as follows: “published in the edition of book of doctrine and covenants published at Kirtland Ohio, 1835. Page 128. Insert the Revelation.”7
Some of the Elders returned from their missions, to gain some rest and instructions. They rehearsed some of the wickedness which they had seen among this generation: while they were proclaiming the gospel, and warning the people, some would cry false prophets, false christ &c. Some would receive the word gladly until their priests would cry delusion! delusion!! for this generation abounds with priests, which they have heaped up unto themselves, and every one is teaching for hire: consequently every one is looking for his gain from his quarter. They will persecute the disciples, and cause their followers to do likewise. Out of the mixed multitude some obey the gospel of peace and bring forth fruit some an hundred fold.
The Lord is pouring forth some of his judgments, in token of the last days. An earthquake in China destroyed about one Million of souls. But judgments in these days as in former days serves to harden men, until it is to[o] late to repent.8
1. Hubble was one of a number of early members who claimed revelation for the church (Backman, Heavens, 59-62; [p.43]Pratt, Autobiography, 48-52; 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, 11-16, 66-81; and, in particular, George A. Smith in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [Liverpool, Eng.: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1855-86; reprint ed., n.p., 1966], 11:2-8, hereafter cited as JD). They represented the enthusiastic strain of American religion, which promoted physical manifestations of the Spirit (see David S. Lovejoy, Religious Enthusiasm in the New World, Heresy to Revolution [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985]; and Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-Over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800- 1850 [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1950]).
3. In June 1830 Joseph Smith began working on what he referred to as a “new translation” of the Bible. Believing that a number of scriptural passages had suffered through the process of repeated copying and translating over the centuries, Joseph attempted to restore these verses by revelation to the original intent of their ancient authors. He ended the major part of his effort in 1833, “sealing up” his work until such time as it could be taken to Missouri for publication. Unfortunately, because of the pressures of anti-Mormon mobs and other problems Joseph never published the work while he was alive; indeed, he kept making corrections and amendations in it until shortly before he was killed. (For a history of the translation process and the status of Joseph’s work today, see Robert J. Mathews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975.)
6. This has been a persistent concept among Mormons. It comes largely from the environment of Immediate Millennialism in which the church originated. Many Protestant churches in the United States in the nineteenth century—especially those arising as a consequence of the Second Great Awakening—believed that the Millennium was literally just a matter of days away (Marty E. Marty, Pilgrims in Their Own Land: 500 years of Religion in America [Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1984], 185-208; Michael Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium: The Burned-over District of New York in the 1840s [Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986]; Ernest Lee Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968]; Richard T. Hughes, ed., The American Quest for the Primitive Church [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988]; Richard T. Hughes and C. Leonard Allen, Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630-1875 [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988]; and Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989]).
This attitude was reinforced by a number of revelations which made the Second Coming seem imminent (D&C 1; 2; 27:5-18; 29; 33; 35; 38; 39:16-24; 58; 88; 109; 110; 133). It is also evident in the thinking and writing of early church leaders (HC, 1:294-95, 439-40; 4:15, 401; 7:8; Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991], 320-21; Grant Underwood, “Seminal versus Sesquicentennial Saints: A Look at Mormon Millennialism,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 [Spring 1981]: 32-44; “Millennialism and the Early Mormon Mind,” Journal of Mormon History 9 : 41-51; and “The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism,” Ph.D. diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 1988).
Concerning this period, Orson Pratt later recalled:
It was expected that when the Saints gathered to Jackson County, there would be a perfect paradise, and that there would be an end to trouble and to opposition. And when the Saints were driven out from Jackson County, almost all in the Church expected that they would speedily be restored; and a person was considered almost an apostate that would say, they would not come back in five years, or ten at the furthest; but the prevailing opinion seemed to be that it would take place immediately.
When Zion’s Camp went up, and found the Saints all scattered abroad, what did we hear? Why, all in camp were on the tiptoe to have Zion redeemed immediately; perhaps some would stretch their faith and put it off for five years; but those were considered weak in the faith. This was their extreme enthusiasm….
Again, take the subject of the coming of Christ, and as far back as 1831, I remember that I came on from New York to Kirtland, Ohio and I found many Saints thinking that Christ would come immediately….No doubt they felt exceedingly anxious to have him come, as we all do, and this anxiety overcame them, and hence they were mistaken (JD 3:17).
The expectations of immediacy have settled since the turn of the twentieth century. Although the Second Coming and related matters still remain a major doctrine of the Mormon church, and although apocryphal folktales still abound about its date and related topics, by and large the concept no longer occupies the attention of Latter-day Saints as it once did (see Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986], 288-90).
At this point Whitmer switches from quoting the 1833 Book of Commandments to citing the 1835 Kirtland edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and relying on it almost exclusively for the remainder of his history. In addition, instead of copying the [p.46]text of a revelation in full, he begins the practice of simply indicating the place where the text was later to be inserted.
8. Millennialists believed that natural disasters punished the ungodly and were tokens of the approaching Second Coming (Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 103-12). This attitude came into the early church with its first converts and was accepted as doctrine (see, for example, HC, 1:294-95, 439-40; 4:145, 401; 7:8; see also Grant Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993]).