Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
 by Dan Vogel

Chapter 20
Christ in America

The account of Jesus’ appearance to the Nephites and his three-day ministry in America exceed anything recorded in the New Testament. The magnitude of the destruction is analogous to the apocalyptic events normally associated with Jesus’ second coming wherein the wicked are destroyed and only the righteous are left to greet Jesus. In his case, the Savior appears in ancient America not as a man but as God in his glory and power to establish his church and inaugurate a 200-year era of millennial-like peace and unity. This comparison to the millennium is intentional in that it directs the modern reader to issues of social disintegration, “secret combinations,” and the foretold destruction prior to the second coming, all of which were immediate concerns in Joseph Smith’s day.

Exactly when Jesus appears is unclear, but apparently it is not until nearly a year after the mass destruction (see 3 Ne. 8:5; 10:18) when people have manifested sufficient faith to be so honored (Ether 12:7, 12).1 It constitutes a dramatic response to the deistic criticisms of the Bible. Thomas Paine had rhetorically asked: “The most extraordinary of all the things called miracles, related in the New Testament is that of the devil flying away with Jesus Christ, and carrying him to the top of a high mountain; and to the top of the highest pinnacle of the temple, and showing him, and promising to him all the kingdoms of the world. How happened it that he did not discover America?”2 Smith’s Jesus not only knows about the western hemisphere but is concerned about the spiritual welfare of its inhabitants.

The risen Christ first appears to a large group of Nephite survivors who gather at the temple in the land Bountiful. As they are engaged in conversation, they hear a mysterious voice that seems to come from above them, which they cannot immediately understand. Smith is careful to describe the voice in a way that allows readers to identify it as a voice of personal revelation: “It was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn” (3 Ne. 11:3). Much like the “still small voice” that Nephi heard (Hel. 5:30-31), it is a voice that is not easily understood at first, and although it seems to originate externally, it has great effect on the heart and soul. This voice is not necessarily audible, but is rather the inner voice of inspiration. Indeed, Smith had used similar words to describe the source of his revelations: “Thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest” (Doctrine and Covenants 85:6; hereafter D&C). Here, as with Cowdery’s attempt at translation the previous month (D&C 9), the voice of revelation is tied to a burning sensation in the chest, reminding one of Luke’s account of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his apostles: “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; … And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:31, 32).

On the third time, the people understand the voice to say: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (11:7). Smith borrows here from the New Testament account of Jesus’ baptism when a similar voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), and from the transfiguration in the presence of Peter, James, and John when a voice out of a cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).

Following this announcement, the Nephites gaze upward and see “a Man descending out of heaven … clothed in a white robe … and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them” (11:8). One is reminded of the apostles’ response after Jesus’ resurrection: “They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit” (Luke 24:37). Still, the manifestation to the original apostles is far less dramatic than Jesus’ appearance in America. The latter is not like any of Jesus’ other appearances in the New Testament except one: his ascension into heaven recorded in Acts 1:9-11. So, why did Jesus appear to the Nephites in such a way? Why did he not appear to a select few or to the twelve Nephite disciples? The answer is obvious. Smith’s account—once again—prefigures the parousia, which was anxiously anticipated by the first readers of the Book of Mormon. It is, in fact, a reverse of Jesus’ ascension and a fulfillment of the angels’ words that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

The personage in America identifies himself by saying: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (11:10). Upon hearing this, the entire multitude falls to the earth in revivalistic fashion. Similar to Jesus’ exchange with Thomas in the Gospel of John but on a more grandiose scale, Jesus commands the multitude to “arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (11:14; cf. John 20:24-29). This procedure takes several hours, since Mormon later informs us that the “great multitude” consisted of about 2,500 persons (11:1; 17:25).3

Commanding Nephi to come forward, Jesus says: “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven” (11:21). Nephi has been baptizing with great success already for some time (7:23-26), so the implication is that he is being given additional “power” to administer a new form of baptism, or rather a new covenant of baptism. Accordingly, Jesus dictates a baptismal prayer emphasizing the authority of the administrator: “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” (11:25; cf. Mosiah 18:13). At the same time, Jesus authorizes eleven others to perform baptisms.

This ordinance is to be performed by immersion (11:23), much like the Baptists of Smith’s day and consistent with Joseph Sr.’s possible Anabaptist leanings4 but in conflict with the sprinkling or pouring baptisms Lucy and some of her children experienced in the Presbyterian church. Joseph knew the theological debates about baptism, and these were undoubtedly topics of discussion in the Smith home. It must have been with some satisfaction that Smith dictated the following words: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil. … Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (11:29, 30). Smith had been so deeply affected by the quarreling in his community that this resolution, wherein Jesus takes sides in the controversy, was no doubt made with the intent of bringing peace and harmony to the worship of God.

Having settled the long-standing issues surrounding baptism, Jesus emphasizes the importance of it. His words at this point are adapted from a second-century addition to the Gospel of Mark5:

And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. (3 Ne. 11:33-34)

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;

but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

Emphasizing the importance of the above, Jesus declares: “And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock” (11:33-34, 40).

At about this time, the unbaptized Smith and Cowdery became concerned about their own spiritual welfare. “After writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent,” Cowdery wrote in 1834, “… it was as easily to be seen, that amid the great strife and noise concerning religion, none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the gospel. For, the question might be asked, have men authority to administer in the name of Christ, who deny revelations? … and we only waited for the commandment to be given, ‘Arise and be baptized.’”6 The command came, according to Smith and Cowdery, on 15 May.7 “One morning,” Lucy Smith reported, “they sat down to their work, as usual, and the first thing which presented itself through the Urim and Thummim, was a commandment for Joseph and Oliver to repair to the water, and attend to the ordinance of Baptism. They did so … they had now received authority to baptize.”8

Five years later, Smith and Cowdery would begin telling that their baptisms were preceded by the appearance of an angel who gave them authority. Even later, they would identify this angel as John the Baptist.9 In September 1834, to encourage the faltering Mormons in Missouri, Cowdery said:

On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the vail was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory … his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, “I am thy fellow servant,” dispelled every fear. … We received under his hand the holy priesthood, as he said, “upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer this priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!”10

Cowdery’s disclosure, far from being a simple reminder of what had been related in the past, was surprising news to Missouri Mormons. David Whitmer, president of the Missouri church and early associate of Smith, testified in 1885: “I never heard that an angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic priesthood until the year 1834, 5 or 6.”11 William E. McLellin, another prominent Mormon who joined the church in 1831, concurred: “I never heard of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph and Oliver.”12 Smith’s and Cowdery’s long silence on the issue led Whitmer and Mc­Lel­lin to question the appearance of the angel, believing instead that it had been created to support later notions about priesthood. For instance, McLellin said in 1872: “An angel never ordained a man to any office since the world began. Then say you how did Joseph and Oliver get authority to start? I answer, that a revelation from the Lord gives a man both power and authority to do whatever it commands. The Lord commanded Joseph to baptize, confirm, and ordain Oliver, then Oliver to do the same for him. This was legal and valid.”13

Indeed, there was nothing thus far in the Book of Mormon to cause Smith and Cowdery to seek angelic ordination. Alma received authority to baptize through the Spirit (Mosiah 18:13). Similarly, Alma II taught that holders of the high priesthood were preordained to their office (Alma 13:3), and Jesus’ commission to Nephi and other disciples seems to have been conveyed verbally (3 Ne. 11:21). In this setting, the subsequent claim to angelic ordination seems anachronistic.

Smith’s reason why he and Cowdery delayed revealing this event is not entirely convincing. He stated that they were “forced to keep secret the circumstances of our having been baptized, and having received this priesthood,” because of “a spirit of persecution” that had already manifested itself in Pennsylvania.14 This would not explain why they chose to suppress this information even after relocating to upper New York and Ohio. The fact is that early Mormons, including those who were the closest to Smith, were told nothing about an angelic bestowal of priesthood authority, nor did anyone, including Smith and Cowdery, claim that angelic ordinations would be essential for such a restoration. Whether Smith’s and Cowdery’s receipt of priesthood authority was a closely guarded secret or created later to encourage an unstable membership in Missouri and to place the church under a developing hierarchy is not as important to historians as the corresponding shift from charisma-based authority to one that was both legalistic and hierarchical.15

Returning to the Book of Mormon story, Jesus promises that those who accept baptism at the hands of the twelve Nephite disciples, will also receive a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (12:1). Jesus repeats what the Gospel of John says he uttered to Thomas: “Blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me” (12:2; cf. John 20:29).

Jesus then repeats the beatitudes and the entire sermon on the mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, with only slight variations from the King James Version (12:3-14:27//Matt. 5-7). The interesting thing about this is that the sermon on the mount is a composite of Jesus’ sayings, many of which were added only because they provided transitions or seemed compatible with Jesus’ message—in other words, the sermon was a literary creation—but it becomes a historical reality in America, although theoretically the Nephite version predates Matthew.16 Despite the literary license evident in Matthew, Jesus concludes in the Book of Mormon with: “Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father” (15:1).

Jesus also declares to the Nephites that “the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me” (15:8; cf. Matt. 5:17//3 Ne. 12:17). He adds that “the covenant which I have made with my people [Israel] is not all fulfilled” (15:8). This covenant, as Jesus later explains, pertains to the gathering of Israel in the last days. He declares that the Nephites “are a remnant of the house of Joseph” and that America “is the land of your inheritance,” according to the promises of God (15:12, 13). The idea that the Indians might be Israelites was not new to Jacksonian Americans, but the claim that they had a divine right to the land and its government was novel and disturbing.

Attempting to explain the eastern hemisphere’s ignorance about the existence of the American Israelites, Jesus declares: “And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem” (15:14). Jesus’ words in John 10:16 are drawn upon as a proof-text that Jesus will visit and speak to the Nephites: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (15:17//John 10:16). The Nephites, therefore, are the other sheep, and those at Jerusalem “understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching” (15:22).

Despite the generally accepted interpretation that the “other sheep” of John 10:16 were the gentiles, Samuel Sewall, a commissioner of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, held an opinion similar to Smith’s. In a work he published in Boston in 1697, Sewall noted one Protestant theologian who interpreted the “other sheep” as a reference to the lost ten tribes. “If it be no heresy to say, the ten tribes are the sheep,” argued Sewall, “why should it be accounted heresy to say America is the distinct fold there implied? For Christ doth not affirm that there shall be one fold; but that there shall be ONE FLOCK, ONE SHEPHERD!”17 Sewall believed that the passage prophesied that the Indians would hear Christ’s “voice” when Jesus would eventually come to America and establish the New Jerusalem.18 This was not far from Smith’s own thinking. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus declares that the ten lost tribes will also hear his voice (16:1-3) but does not disclose their geographic location, leaving at least one mystery unsolved.

After alluding to the removal of the Indians into the western territories—when the gentiles “cast out” the Indians “from among them” (16:8)—which had commenced at the time of Smith’s dictation, Jesus issues a jeremiad to modern America. If the gentiles become a sinful, hypocritical nation, full of pride, infested with “secret abominations,” and “reject the fulness of my gospel,” Jesus says, the land will be taken from them and given back to the covenanted Indians (vv. 10-11). Jesus makes it clear that he is not talking about the meek inheriting the earth but about war and mass extinction:

But if they [the gentiles] will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, … I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they [the American Indians] shall go through among them [the gentiles], and shall tread them down, and they [the gentiles] shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel [cf. Matt. 5:13]. Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance. (16:14-16)

If Smith’s warning was intended to strike terror in the hearts of Jacksonian Americans, it nevertheless followed a well-worn path. In 1676, for instance, Increase Mather similarly exploited the Puritan conflict with Indians and blamed the colony’s troubles on the “woeful neglect of the Rising Generation” with regard to religion. “Why should we marvel,” he said, “that God taketh no pleasure in our young men, but they are numbered for the sword, the present judgment lighting chiefly upon the rising generation.”19 Victory over the Indians was seen by Puritans as an act of God’s undeserved providence. The calamity they addressed had barely passed when they accused the people of taking pride in their success. “How have the blessings of God been abused to nourish pride?” asked Mather. “There hath been no small provocation before the Lord in that thing, yea as to pride in respect of apparel.”20 But Mather warned that “there is yet another storm hastening upon this Land, if repentance avert it not. … The Lord can easily punish us by the same instruments again, if we go on to provoke him. … Why then should carnal security grow upon us?”21 While the colony had been momentarily spared, Mather was still pessimistic about its future.

Despite the precedent from a previous generation, Smith took the prediction of Indian uprisings farther than any Puritan jeremiad. To say that God would use the Indians to humble a backsliding nation was one thing, but it was another to say that God would allow the Indians to destroy America and take back the land as their ­inheritance. Three years before the forced expulsion of Native Americans from the United States to territories west of the Mississippi River was completed, Smith’s warning was an exploitation of insecurities existing in the new nation. There was good reason to fear the Indians, for both the British and the French had made al­liances with them. After the War of 1812 and well into the nineteenth century, Indian uprisings continued to trouble America, most notably the Seminole Wars in Florida, 1817-18, 1835-42, 1856-58; the Black Hawk War in Illinois and present-day Wisconsin, 1831-32; and the Sioux and Cheyenne wars of the northern plains, 1876-81. Indian uprisings were a reality in Smith’s day, and it was with genuine concern that those on the Missouri frontier attempted to frustrate an early Mormon effort to evangelize the Indians. Jesus would revisit this subject with even more frightful details.

As Jesus is about to leave and the people beg him to remain longer, what follows is the emotional highpoint of the narrative. The scene opens with Jesus healing the sick. People respond by bathing his feet in tears and kissing them (17:7-10). Next, Jesus commands them to bring their children to him. Standing among the children, he commands the multitude to kneel. In anguish, Jesus “groans within himself” and cries out saying: “Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel” (v. 14). Kneeling, he begins to pray. At this point, Smith abandons readers to their imaginations and confides an inability to describe the scene (v. 17). Upon arising, Jesus finds the people overcome with joy (v. 18) and declares: “Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full” (v. 20). Jesus weeps (v. 21). After blessing each child as he did in Palestine (vv. 19-22; cf. Matt. 19:13-15), Jesus “wept again” (v. 22). As climax to this scene, the heavens open and angels come down and surround Jesus and the children, and it appears to the multitude that they are “encircled about with fire” (v. 24).

Jesus then institutes the eucharist (also referred to as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion) among the Nephites. Far removed from the private setting of the Last Supper, the account in 3 Nephi has more affinity with Jesus’ miracle of feeding the multitude with bread and fish described in Matthew 14:13-21. After Jesus blesses the bread, the disciples eat and are “filled.” Likewise, the disciples feed the seated multitude who are also “filled” (18:1-5). The same procedure is followed with the “wine of the cup,” producing the same result (vv. 8-9). While Paul reproves the Corinthians for turning the Lord’s Supper into a gluttonous feast, it is possible that the Lord’s Supper as practiced in the ancient church was observed as part of a meal associated with the Last Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34).22 According to one source, Smith and his followers in Missouri in 1838 observed “the true manner of partaking of the sacrament” by gathering at the public square before breakfast “where there was prepared … plenty of good bread and a barrel of wine. The bread and wine was blessed, [and] every person ate bread and drank wine as they wanted.”23 Following the administration of the bread, Jesus directs: “Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church” (18:5). Later, Smith will expand the authorization to include “elders and priests” (Moro. 4:1; cf. D&C 20:76).

The words of the sacramental prayers are not given in 3 Nephi, but Jesus’ explanation anticipates the wording Moroni later gives (18:7, 10-11; cf. Moro. 4:3; 5:2). Concluding his discussion of the eucharist, Jesus states: “And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock” (18:12-13). Jesus later says, “I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you” (v. 34). As it turns out, Smith’s contemporaries were divided on whether Jesus’ prayer over the bread and wine was a consecration or a prayer of thanks.24 Because 3 Nephi 18:3 repeats the wording that Jesus “blessed it,” as in the King James version of Matthew 26:26, together with the “bless and sanctify” of Moroni 4:3 and 5:2, Mark Thomas has concluded that “Joseph Smith believed the original prayer was a consecration of the elements.”25

Jesus then resolves another issue that sounds like a criticism of the Harmony Methodists who had ejected Smith from their Wednesday classes: “Ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not. … And whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation” (18:22, 25). Still, Jesus endorses a closed communion. Much as Paul would instruct the early church, Jesus delivers the following command to the Nephite church: “Ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; for whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul” (18:28-29; cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-30). Whether communion should be open or closed was debated often in Smith’s day.

Puritans objected to the Anglican practice of open communion, believing that it would bring God’s displeasure upon them. They ignored Paul’s instruction to “let a man examine himself” (1 Cor. 11:28) and required communicants to be examined by church authorities before partaking of the flesh and blood of Christ. But as the dream of establishing a pure church in America began to slip away and the second generation became increasingly preoccupied with worldly matters, New England Puritans instituted the Half Way Covenant in 1662 to relax church discipline, effect­ively discontinuing the practice of a closed communion.26

Christian primitivists began pushing for an open communion in order to further inter-denominational unity.27 James O’Kelly urged the Baptists to “open a more charitable door, and receive to their communion those of Christian life and experience.”28 Thomas Campbell, father of the founder of the Disciples of Christ (Church of Christ), withdrew from the orthodox Associate Presbyterians in Pennsylvania when he was found guilty of violating the closed communion principle.29 In 1826, Alexander Campbell began advocating open communion.30 However, closed communion continued among the Disciples despite Campbell’s view, and the issue was never entirely resolved until the latter part of the nineteenth century.31

While primitivists were generally softening, Mormonism would revive the Puritan concept of a pure church through the use of greater and lesser bans (i.e., excommunication and closed communion) and a firm hierarchical control. J. J. Moss, a Campbellite who taught school in Kirtland, Ohio, described the early Mormon practice of closed communion: “They partook of the Lords supper at night with darkened windows and excluded from the room all but their own till they got through and then they opened the doors and called [in] the outsiders.”32

In keeping with the Puritan view, apostasy and social decline in the Book of Mormon are connected to a corruption of the eucharist. Nephites who later apostatize from the true gospel “did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness” (4 Ne. 1:27). Mormon’s son Moroni speaks to latter-day readers and advises them not to perform their religious duties unworthily: “See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily” (Morm. 9:29).

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus touches the disciples one by one to convey to them the “power to give the Holy Ghost” (18:37; cf. John 20:22), then ascends into heaven much as he did in Palestine: “There came a cloud and overshadowed the multitude that they could not see Jesus. … And he departed from them, and ascended into heaven” (18:38, 39; cf. Acts 1:9). The multitude then dispersed (19:1-3).

On the following day, a great multitude gathers to hear the twelve disciples, who are now named as Nephi and his brother Timothy and son Jonas, Mathoni (=Matthew?) and his brother Mathonihah, Kumen, Kumenonhi, Jeremiah, Shemnon (=Simon?), Jonas, Zedekiah, and Isaiah (19:4). Interestingly, Jesus’ apostles in Palestine included two sets of brothers; one pair, Simon Peter and Andrew, were the sons of Jonas, a name that appears twice in Smith’s list (Mark 1:16; John 21:16). Smith’s list contains two variations of the same name: Mathoni/Mathonihah and Kumen/ Kumenonhi. Four of the names—Nephi, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zede­kiah—may indicate that Smith was beginning to think again about the lost beginning part of the Book of Mormon. While the appearance of Old Testament names might be expected, the use of Greek names, Timothy and Jonas, has caused concern among skeptics and thoughtful apologists, the latter concluding that the Greek influence in Jerusalem must have predated Lehi.33 It remains unexplained why one does not encounter any Greek names in the text until 600 years after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. A more reasonable explanation is that, in narrating events associated with Jesus’ birth and earthly ministry, Smith drew upon Greek names as a means of giving his text a New Testament flavor.

Another puzzling feature is that eight of the twelve names (Timothy, Jonas [twice], Mathoni, Mathonihah, Kumen, Kumenonhi, and Shemnon) appear nowhere else in the Book of Mormon. Jeremiah, Zedekiah, and Isaiah never appear as Nephite names except here. Thus, one wonders if the list was made up spontaneously and if the rapid succession of derivative names Mathoni/Mathonihah and Kumen/Kumenonhi might suggest that the narrator’s creativity was being overworked.

After the disciples pray to receive the Holy Ghost, they lead the multitude to the water’s edge where Nephi is baptized—or rather re-baptized—into the new covenant (19:10-11). The record does not specify whether another disciple baptizes Nephi or if, like Alma, he baptizes himself (Mosiah 18:14). Then Nephi baptizes the other disciples, after which “the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (v. 13). The disciples are encircled with fire from heaven and angels come down and minister to them (v. 14).

Jesus, too, appears in the fire and ministers to the disciples (19:15). Following ­Jesus’ command, everyone kneels and prays. “And they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God” (v. 18; cf. John 20:28). Much as he had done at Gethsemane, Jesus “went a little way off” to pray to his Father, thanking him for sending the Holy Ghost upon his disciples and asking that this gift be given to all who believe their words (vv. 19-22; cf. Matt. 26:36, 38). As in the Gospel of John, Jesus petitions the Father: “And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, … that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one” (19:23; cf. John 17:11).

In Gethsemane, Jesus returns from praying to find his disciples sleeping (Matt. 26:40, 43), whereas in the Book of Mormon, he returns and finds that they “did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him” (19:24). He instructs the Nephite disciples, as he does his disciples in the New Testament, to continue praying while he again goes away to do the same (19:26-27; cf. Matt. 26:36, 38). This time Jesus thanks the Father for purifying his disciples, using language similar to that recorded in the Gospel of John more than a half century later than the date ascribed to the Book of Mormon (19:28-29; cf. John 17:19). When Jesus returns, he finds his American disciples still praying—“and behold they were white, even as Jesus” (19:30). Unlike the New Testament, the retreat to solitary prayer is repeated again a third time in the Book of Mormon (v. 31). This time Jesus prays words which “tongue cannot speak … neither can [they] be written” (v. 32), although through inspiration, the multitude understands the meaning (v. 33).

Echoing Jesus’ words to the centurion in the New Testament, Jesus declares the following to the Nephite twelve: “So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews” (19:35; cf. Matt. 8:10). Miraculously, Jesus produces bread and wine for another celebration of the eucharist, which he administers to the disciples, and they to the multitude (20:3-9). Again the New Testament story of the loaves and fish is reenacted, after which Jesus promises those who eat of his flesh and blood that they “shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled” (v. 8; cf. John 6:35). After partaking, the multitude is “filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus” (v. 9).

The Nephites are now told their place in the ancient prophecies. Reminding them of his earlier discussion of Isaiah—predictions regarding the gathering of Israel and how they would come to a knowledge of the Redeemer (16:4-20; Isa. 52:8-10)—Jesus tells the Nephites that, as Israelites, the prophecies pertain to them. They are to gather in America rather than in Israel, for “the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance” (v. 14). In the words of the Old Testament prophet Micah, Jesus repeats his warning to the latter-day gentiles who would reject his message:

If the Gentiles do not repent … then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; … and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flock of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off [Micah 5:8-9]. And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor. For I will make my people with whom the Father hath covenanted, yea, I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass. And thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth [Micah 4:12-13]. And behold, I am he who doeth it. (20:15-19)

This prophecy is of the overthrow and destruction of the United States by Indians. The Indian alliance with the British in the War of 1812 and subsequent Indian Wars made the tribal presence intolerable for many Americans. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, advocating their immediate removal to lands west of the Mississippi. For Smith, the election of Andrew Jackson, the growing influence of Masonry, the hypocrisy of the clergy, and the nation’s increasing secularization were harbingers of destruction. Speaking of the latter-day gentiles, Jesus says explicitly: “The sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles” (20:20). This echoes Smith’s revelation of the previous March: “The sword of justice hangeth over their heads, and if they persist in the hardness of their hearts, the time cometh that it must fall upon them” (Book of Commandments 4:6; hereafter BofC).

Just as the Nephites lose their inheritance through sin and secret combinations, so will the gentiles lose America to the Indians. “This people will I establish in this land,” Jesus says, “unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you” (20:22; cf. 16:4-7; D&C 52:2). It is one thing to give America to its native people, another to connect this to God’s covenant with Jacob pertaining to “the land whereon thou liest” (Gen. 28:13; cf. 13:15), meaning Bethel specifically and Israel generally, not America. Nevertheless, this interpretation follows from the Puritan habit of applying Bible prophecies about Israel to themselves, only that Smith applied it to the Indians.

The Puritan concept was that the covenant people had come to New England to join with God in “building his new Jerusalem,” or “to lay but one stone in the foundation of this new Zion.”34 In a short time, “we have created in the wilderness of the western world a commonwealth for Christ, a spiritual New Jerusalem,” they announced.35 Samuel Sewall rhetorically asked Cotton Mather in 1684 “why the heart of America may not be the seat of the New-Jerusalem.”36 In Sewall’s 1697 Phaeno­mena Quaedam Apoca­lyptica, he repeated the question of why this could not be “the place of New Jerusalem.” In his opinion, “America’s name is to be seen fairly recorded in scripture” as indeed the “seat of New Jerusalem.”

Cotton Mather “firmly believed that he had been sent on a special mission by God to lead his own and his father’s generations out of their years of confusion and doubt and into a new time that would see the coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Jerusalem in America.”37 Mather looked “westward” for “the last conflict with anti-Christ” and quoted Uriah Oakes: “That for the New-Jerusalem, there may/A seat be found in wide America.”38 Mather himself argued in 1710 that somewhere in “the brave countries and gardens which fill the American hemisphere”—outside New England—“our glorious Lord will have an holy city in America; a city, the street whereof will be pure gold.”39

The Puritan dream dimmed over time, but some continued to hope.40 In 1785, the author of The Golden Age told of an angel taking him to a high mountain in the center of North America to watch the Jews gather to America, the “New Canaan,” to settle a “New Jerusalem.”41 As late as 8 October 1829, the Wayne Sentinel reported that a Mr. McDonald, a man about fifty years of age living near Bowling Green, Kentucky, had “founded a city, which he calls New Jerusalem.”

Smith did more than borrow the idea, he radicalized it. It was revolutionary to say that Indians would establish a New Jerusalem by rising up and casting out the Europeans. When it was taught to the Indians by Mormon missionaries, it became subversive and treasonable. It was like the sixteenth-century Anabaptists who captured Muenster, Germany, by force and established their prophets as the theocratic rulers of the city.42 The Book of Mormon returns to this theme shortly.

Meanwhile, Jesus continues to discuss Old Testament prophecy, declaring that he is the prophet referred to when Moses said, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people” (20:23; cf. Deut. 18:15, 18, 19). Jewish interpreters anticipated a prophet, foretold in Deuteronomy, and a messiah, based on other scriptural passages (John 1:20-21; 7:40-41), but early Christians united the two in Jesus (Acts 3:22-23). Smith took it a step farther and put the interpretation in Jesus’ own mouth, although quoting the paraphrase from Peter rather than directly from Moses, compounded by the fact that he quotes the additional words of Peter that follow (cf. 20:24-26//Acts 3:24-26).

Jesus gives the Nephites a “sign” by which they may know that the prophecies concerning the gathering of Israel and the establishment of Zion are about to be fulfilled (21:1-11). The coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days is the “sign … that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel” (v. 7). Jesus declares that “in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them” (v. 9; cf. Isa. 29:14). Smith has previously described his mission as “a marvelous work” and “a great and marvelous work” (D&C 4:1; 6:1; 11:1; 12:1; 14:1).

Then Jesus refers directly to Joseph Smith. Using a mixture of scriptures traditionally assigned to Jesus and the Messiah, Jesus prophesies concerning the latter-days: “And there shall be among them those who will not believe it [the Book of Mormon], although a man shall declare it unto them [Acts 13:41]. But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil” (21:9-10; emphasis added). The marred “servant” alludes to Isaiah 52:13-14 (//3 Ne. 20:43-44), which was traditionally interpreted by Christians to be a messianic prophecy.43 Thus, Smith has Jesus apply a messianic prophecy to Joseph Smith himself.

The next quotation is from Micah 5:8-14, which repeats verses 8-9, previously paraphrased, concerning how the Indians will tear the gentiles to pieces like a lion its prey (21:12-18; cf. 20:16-17). The repetition underscores Smith’s militancy. The unrepentant gentiles will be “cut off from among my people” (21:20; cf. 20:23//Acts 3:19-23), he says, followed by another quote from Micah: “And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard” (5:15//3 Ne. 21:21).

Borrowing from Smith’s March 1829 revelation, Jesus promises that if the gentiles ­repent and “harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them” (21:22//BofC 4:5). Then the gentiles will be “numbered among the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance” (v. 22). Returning to the theme of the New Jerusalem, Jesus reveals that believing gentiles “shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob [the Indian], and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst” (21:23-25). Previously, Jesus said the Indians would overthrow the gentiles and establish their own government (20:20-22), but now it is revealed that they will do this with the assistance of believing gentiles, meaning Smith and his followers.

It was such passages, together with pronouncements based on these passages, that concerned some of the inhabitants of areas near where Smith and his followers would later gather. Their neighbors saw in these passages a subversive and dangerous agenda. During his tour through the United States in 1833 and 1834, Edward Strut Abdy learned that Mormons in Missouri “maintain that the Indian tribes will finally recover their lands.”44 He accused the Mormons of “keeping up a constant communication with the Indian tribes of our frontier, with declaring, even from the pulpit, that the Indians are a part of God’s chosen people, and are destined, by heaven, to inherit this land, in common with themselves.”45 Eber D. Howe of Ohio charged in 1834 that “one of the leading articles of faith [of Mormonism] is, that the Indians of North America, in a very few years, will be converted to Mormonism, and through rivers of blood will again take possession of their ancient ‘inheritance.’”46 As late as 1843, Indian agents remained concerned “that a grand conspiracy is about to be entered into between the Mormons and the Indians to destroy all white settlements on the Frontier.”47

The militarism characteristic of the later Illinois period of Mormonism was present in a nascent form much earlier. Smith’s 1834 para-military campaign called “Zion’s Camp,” in response to Missouri persecutions, was in keeping with the tone of the Book of Mormon. In Smith’s mind, the failure of Zion’s Camp was temporary. When he disbanded the camp, he dictated a revelation declaring that the redemption of Zion would have to wait “until the army of Israel become very great” (D&C 105:26, 31). In 1838, this militancy surfaced again when Smith decided to take the law into his own hands in redressing wrongs committed against his people in Missouri.48

One sees a possible reason for the fascination with war, tactics, and military heroes evident in the Book of Mormon. The War of 1812 showed that America might be vulnerable to overthrow and a key to victory might be an alliance with the Indians. Perhaps Smith saw himself, like Moroni and Helaman, at the head of an army partly composed of Lamanites marching against the secrecy and conspiracies in the nation’s capital and establishing a theocratic government (see Alma 62). If he saw himself as a freedom-fighter, in the eyes of Jacksonian Americans he was traitorous and fanatical.

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus again blesses the children: “He did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people” (26:14). There may be a desire in Smith, as expressed here, to communicate some higher doctrines with his father. Indeed, the Book of Mormon was a platform for building doctrine (see also Ether 3-4). Meanwhile, after performing many miracles and raising a man from the dead, Jesus again ascends into heaven (v. 15).

When the people gather the next day, they again hear the children—“even babes”—“utter marvelous things” (26:16). This seems to dramatize Jesus’ prayer in the New Testament: “I thank thee, O Father, … because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matt. 11:25; cf. 21:16). However, one is left to imagine the words these children spoke, for Nephi is “forbidden” to write them (v. 16).

The disciples baptize and teach the people, “and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost. And many of them saw and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written” (26:17-18; cf. 2 Cor. 12:4). Similar to believers in the New Testament, converts in the Book of Mormon unite both spiritually and economically, “and they had all things common among them” (v. 19; cf. Acts 2:44).

Jesus’ third and final visit is a private appearance to the twelve disciples who have gathered to fast and pray to resolve a dispute among the believers concerning the name of the church. Jesus suddenly appears and declares: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day. … And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (27:4-5, 8). This simple argument echoes Christian primitivism and a not-so-subtle criticism of major Christian denominations—Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists—whose members would respond that they take upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism, not through membership in a church.

Regardless, primitivists and Seekers were concerned about what name the true church would bear. Justifying his separation from the various churches, Roger Williams complained in 1644 that “their religion is so corrupt, as that there is not the very name of Jesus Christ amongst them.”49 Abner Jones, who eventually withdrew from the Baptists, was troubled by the name of his church: “When I searched the New Testament through, to my great astonishment I could not find the denomination of Baptist mentioned in the whole of it. … In the time of the apostles, the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. After this search, I denied the name of Baptist.”50 When James O’Kelly left the Methodist church, he openly criticized sectarian names and expressed a desire for Christian unity: “Again as each church is called by a different name, suppose we dissolve those unscriptural names and for peace’s sake call ourselves Christians. … All may see what I am at, I wish the divine Savior to be the only head and governor of the church, her law and her center of union.”51 In 1825, five years before organizing the Disciples of Christ, Alexander Campbell argued that “God makes it the duty of every Christian to oppose every sectarian name and creed.”52 Earlier that year, he said:

Look into the New Testament. There the church is the Church of Christ, and his disciples are Christians. Look out of the New Testament, and look into the creeds and confessions. Here we see a Baptist church, a Methodist church, and a Presbyterian church, &c. … The New Testament names, which all must approve of, are thrown aside to give place to sectarian names. … When we give a name and a creed to a church, other than the name of Christ, or Christian, and the New Testament, or the Gospel, that church acquires immediately in our imaginations and feelings, and in fact, a character altogether different from what the Church of Christ really possesses in the light of the New Testament.53

When primitivists founded their own churches, they did so in the name of Christ. In 1801, Jones headed a group in Lyndon, Vermont, known “by the name of Christians only.”54 Other primitivist groups organized under the names of “Christian Con­nexion,”55 “Christians,”56 or simply “Christian.”57 When officially organized on 6 April 1830, Smith will call his church the “Church of Christ” (D&C 20:1).58

Concerning other churches built up by men and not upon the true gospel, Jesus states: “They have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return” (27:11). Previously, Smith had attacked what he saw as hypocritical behavior on the part of individuals; now for the first time, he condemns the churches. This, along with his and Cowdery’s baptisms, are evidence that the early vision of reformation and unity is giving way to one of restoration and exclusivity. Perhaps the increasing persecution Smith was receiving at the hands of the Methodists, particularly Nathaniel Lewis, changed his attitude toward the other churches.

Jesus declares that he is pleased with the present generation of Nephites, “for none of them are lost” (27:30-31). His concern is for the fourth generation which, like Judas, will sell their Savior for gold and silver, becoming—like Jacksonian America—a worldly and materialistic society (v. 32). “And in that day,” Jesus warns, “will I visit them, even in turning their works upon their own heads” (v. 32).

In an exchange between Jesus and his Nephite disciples, inspired by Smith’s revelation the previous month regarding the physical translation of the apostle John (D&C 7),59 Jesus asks each man: “What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?” (28:1). All but three respond: “We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man, that our ministry, wherein thou hast called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom” (v. 2). Jesus grants their wish, promising that they will live to the age of seventy-two and then be brought into his “rest” (v. 3). Afraid to reveal their secret wish, the remaining three men keep silent. Jesus perceives their question, saying: “Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me. Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death, … for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand” (vv. 6-7, 9). Excluding these three men, Jesus touches each of the disciples with his finger, then vanishes (v. 12).

Smith previously discussed the doctrine of translation in connection with the high priesthood (Alma 13) and hinted at the translations of Alma and Nephi (Alma 45:18-19; 3 Ne. 1:2; 2:9). Now, through Mormon, he gives an extended discussion of what a translated body is (28:12-18, 36-40). Mormon explains that the three disciples were carried into heaven and, like Paul, “saw and heard unspeakable things. And it was forbidden them that they should utter; neither was it given unto them power that they could utter the things which they saw and heard. And whether they were in the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God” (28:13-15; cf. 2 Cor. 12:1-4). Mormon is unsure if the three became immortal at their transfiguration or remained mortal, yet he knows that they could not be killed because several unsuccessful attempts were made on their lives (vv. 17-23).60 This may reflect Smith’s own uncertainty about the nature of translated bodies.

Mormon states that he is forbidden to write the names of the three Nephites but testifies that he himself has seen them. “And behold they will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles shall know them not. … And they are as the angels of God, and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can show themselves unto whatever man it seemeth them good” (28:27, 30). This inspired the folklore among Smith’s followers that persists today regarding sightings of the three Nephites.61

Mormon returns to the subject of translated bodies, stating that God has revealed the answer to him since he last wrote (28:36-37). He now understands that the bodies of the three disciples were changed so they would not die, but “this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day” (v. 39). He knows that “they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them” (v. 39). At Jesus’ return, they will receive “a greater change” and “dwell with God eternally in the heavens” (v. 40).

Smith’s account of Jesus’ three-day ministry to the Nephites was intended to resolve the skepticism that existed about the Bible’s awareness of the New World. It confirmed speculations that the gospel had been preached in ancient America. “The gospel had in very remote times, been already preached in America,” Ethan Smith wrote in 1825. “It is a noted fact that there is a far greater analogy between much of the religion of the Indians, and Christianity, than between that of any other heathen nation on earth and Christianity.”62 John Yates and Joseph Moulton, in their 1824 History of the State of New-York, reported that a certain Indian tribe in Missouri was still “retaining some ceremonies of the Christian worship.”63

Belief that Christianity existed in the New World led to questions about how it came to be preached there. Congregational clergyman Samuel Mather argued in 1773 that Christ commissioned his apostles to go into all the world to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20), after which Paul declared that the gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven (Col. 1:23); therefore, there were good reasons for believing the gospel had been preached to the ancient Americans. Mather himself believed that the apostles and perhaps even some of the seventy disciples visited America. Although the Indians of “this Western World sinned away the Gospel,” Mather hoped that through his preaching they would one day be “restored” to the true Christian faith.64

Early Spanish explorers and priests promoted the idea that the apostles had been in America. The Mexican god Quetzalcoatl, described as a man with white skin, was identified by some Spaniards as St. Thomas.65 But the legend of Quetzalcoatl had other interpretations. At least one early writer, Chevalier Boturini (1702-51), found the legend of Quetzalcoatl suggestive of Christ.66 Ethan Smith was fascinated by Quetzalcoatl—“the most mysterious being of the whole Mexican mythology”—but equivocated about his identification. Describing him as “a white and bearded man” who was both a “high priest” and a “legislator,” Ethan Smith united into one figure the tradition of Moses the lawgiver and Aaron the high priest. Unlike Moses, however, Quetzalcoatl “preached peace to men, and would permit no other offerings to the Divinity than the first fruits of the harvests.” Smith compared the healing power of the “serpent of the green plumage,” a symbol for Quetzalcoatl, with Moses’ “brazen serpent in the wilderness.”67 He knew, but neglected to mention explicitly, the parallel the New Testament draws between the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness and the Son of God lifted on the cross (John 3:14), as the Book of Mormon also acknowledges (3 Ne. 27:14). After preaching to the ancient Americans, the white god of Mexico disappeared, promising one day to return.68

Before moving to subsequent events in Nephite history, Mormon speaks directly to his latter-day gentile readers to warn them not to spurn prophecy or to think “the Lord delays his coming unto the children of Israel” or “imagine in your hearts that the words which have been spoken are vain” (29:2, 3; cf. Matt. 24:48). The Book of Mormon will be the signal of the final gathering and restoration of Israel “beginning to be fulfilled” (v. 1; cf. 21:7). Speaking to Joseph Smith’s critics, Mormon continues: “Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost” (v. 6). Their fate will be like that of Judas, the son of perdition, “for whom there was no mercy” (v. 7). Mormon calls the gentiles to repentance and exhorts them to be baptized for a remission of their sins, to be filled with the Holy Ghost, and to be “numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel” (30:2).

After Smith and Cowdery baptized one another on 15 May 1829, they began urging baptism on Joseph’s brother Samuel Smith. As Joseph later recalled, his younger brother was “not very easily persuaded.” Samuel was a baptized Presbyterian, unlike Joseph and Oliver who never had been baptized, as far as can be determined. For Samuel, the issue was not baptism, but re-baptism. Was it necessary for him to be re-baptized since he had already made a covenant with God? Perhaps his resistance was based on the concern expressed by Thomas Campbell, himself a former Presbyterian who joined his son in founding the Disciples of Christ. The Mormon practice of “re-baptizing believers,” he observed in 1831, “is making void the law of Christ.”69 In the absence of clearly defined authority, Smith’s and Cowdery’s strongest argument probably turned on the issue of submersion. If they appealed to Nephi’s re-baptism, the situation was not completely analogous since Samuel Smith had been baptized under the Christian dispensation, whereas Nephi had not. Samuel decided to make the matter a subject of prayer. He decided to submit to the ordinance, allowing Oliver to baptize him on 25 May 1829.70

Soon Hyrum Smith arrived, probably to escort Samuel back to Manchester. Joseph and Oliver found that Hyrum, too, resisted re-baptism, having been previously baptized by the Presbyterians. Unlike Samuel, Hyrum left Harmony without being re-baptized. But before leaving, Joseph dictated a revelation indicating that Hyrum would be called as a missionary (D&C 11). The revelation cautioned: “Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called. Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine. And then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you” (vv. 15-17).

About the same time, Joseph dictated a revelation for his old friend Joseph Knight, similarly calling him to the work (D&C 12). Knight probably accompanied Hyrum from Colesville to Harmony to bring provisions. Indeed, this may have been one of the “several times” Joseph Smith mentioned when Knight brought “supplies … which enabled us to continue the work when otherwise we must have relinquished it for a season.”71 With this timely aid, Joseph and Oliver pursued their work, not knowing exactly how the history of the Nephites would end nor how many pages were left.


1. See S. Kent Brown and John Tvedtnes, When Did Jesus Appear to the Nephites in Bountiful? (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1989).

2. Thomas Paine, Age of Reason (Boston, 1794), 55.

3 . In his 1887 book, The Golden Bible; or, The Book of Mormon. Is It From God? (New York: Ward and Drummond), the Reverend M. T. Lamb objected that the procedure described in 3 Nephi would have taken considerable time, arguing that if one allowed five persons to pass Jesus every minute, giving each one twelve seconds to thrust his hand into his side and feel the print of the nails, it would require “eight hours and twenty minutes of time!” (162). B. H. Roberts countered that the “multitude” that touched Jesus’ wounds was “a very much smaller number” than the 2,500 counted at the end of the day (A New Witness for God [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909], 3:514-15). There is nothing to explicitly support Roberts’s speculation, although the text implies that Jesus’ appearance was not “noised abroad” until after his first visit had concluded (3 Ne. 19:1-3). Lamb’s point is still well taken since the group at the temple prior to Jesus’ first appearance is described as a “great multitude” (3 Ne. 11:1).

4. See Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003), 1:636-37; hereafter EMD.

5. See The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), 7:915-16.

6. Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, [Letter I], Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834): 15 (EMD 2:419-20).

7. Joseph Smith, Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1, 18, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, UT (EMD 1:75); and Oliver Cowdery, introduction to blessings, Sept. 1835, Patriarchal Blessing Book, 1:8-9, LDS Church Archives (EMD 2:452).

8. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for many Generations (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 131 (EMD 1:381).

9. Smith’s 1832 unpublished history mentioned “the reception of the Holy Priesthood by the ministering of Angels.” However, one should not read a later understanding into what, at the time, meant authority generally derived from the appearances of various angels.

10. Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, [Letter I], Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834): 15, 16 (EMD 2:420-21).

11. Zenas H. Gurley Jr., “Questions asked of David Whitmer at his home in Richmond Ray County Mo. Jan 14—1885,” 2 (back), Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Church) Archives, Independence, MO (EMD 5:137).

12. William E. McLellin to J. L. Traughber, 25 Aug. 1877, in the Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Dec. 1985 (EMD 5:329, n. 9). In a Letter to Joseph Smith III, McLellin similarly stated: “But as to the story of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph and Oliver on the day they were baptized: I never heard of it in the church for years, although I carefully noticed things that were said” (William E. McLellin to Joseph Smith III, July and Sept. 1872, Community of Christ Archives (EMD 5:329).

13True L[atter] D[ay] Saints’ Herald 19 (1 Aug. 1872): 472.

14. J. Smith, History, Book A-1, 18 (EMD 1:76).

15. This development has been traced in Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 106-121; and D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 5-32. I revisit the subject of angelic priesthood restoration in chapter 30 of this volume, where I offer a more detailed analysis and interpretation.

16. For a brief discussion of the composite nature of the Sermon on the Mount, see The Interpreter’s Bible, 7:156-60. See also Stan Larson’s discussion of 3 Nephi’s dependence on the King James Version in “The Historicity of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi,” Brent D. Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 115-63.

17. Samuel Sewall, Phaenomena Quaedam Apocalyptica (Boston, 1697), 35-36.

18. Ibid., 1-2, 42. Sewall apparently believed in an American New Jerusalem as early as 1684. See Ola Elizabeth Winslow, Samuel Sewall of Boston (New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), 152-56.

19. Increase Mather, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England, To hearken to the voice of God in his late and present Dispensations (Boston, 1676), 16-17; see also [Increase Mather], Necessity of Reformation (Boston, 1679).

20. Increase Mather, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England, [7]. See also Christine Leigh Heyrman, “The Fashion among More Superior People: Charity and Social Change in Provincial New England, 1700-1740,” American Quarterly (Summer 1982): 107-25.

21. Mather, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England, [1-2].

22. See The Interpreter’s Bible, 10:130-32, 135.

23. Oliver B. Huntington, Journal, 4 September 1887 (2:282), typescript, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

24. See, e.g., Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … With a Commentary and Critical Notes, 6 vols. (New York, 1811-17), s.v. Matt. 26:26.

25. Mark D. Thomas, “A Rhetorical Approach to the Book of Mormon: Rediscovering Nephite Sacramental Language,” in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, 61, n. 4.

26. The Puritans of New England practiced closed communion until the Half Way Covenant of 1662. See Edmund S. Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1963), 64-138.

27. I. Daniel Rupp, comp., He Pasa Ekklesia: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present in the United States (Philadelphia: J. Y. Humphreys, 1844), 259.

28. Wilbur E. MacClenny, The Early History of the Christian Church in the South (Raleigh, NC: Edwards and Broughton, 1910), 248-49.

29. Winfred Ernest Garrison and Alfred T. DeGroot, The Disciples of Christ (St. Louis: Christian Board of Education, 1948), 135-36.

30. See Christian Baptist 3 (1826): 373, in Robert Robinson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 2 vols. (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1897-98), 2:137; and Christian Baptist 3 (1826): 238, in Royal Humbert, ed., A Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1961), 189.

31. See Garrison and DeGroot, The Disciples of Christ, 348-50.

32. J. J. Moss to J. T. Cobb, 17 Dec. 1878, in A. T. S. Schroeder Collection, Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison.

33. See, e.g., Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Publishing Co., 1952), 34; and Stephen D. Ricks, “I Have a Question: Greek Names in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign 22 (Oct. 1992): 53-54.

34. See Edward Howes to John Winthrop, 9 Nov. 1631, in Allyn Bailey and Stewart Mitchell, eds., The Winthrop Papers, 5 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929-47), 3:54; and Arthur Tyndal to John Winthrop, 10 Nov. 1629, ibid., 2:166. On the Puritan concept of an American New Jerusalem, see Alan Heinert, “Puritanism, the Wilderness, and the Frontier,” New England Quarterly 26 (Sept. 1953): 361-62. For a comparison of Puritan and Mormon concepts of the New Jerusalem, see Gustav H. Blanke and Karen Lynn, “‘God’s Base of Operations’: Mormon Variations on the American Sense of Mission,” BYU Studies 20 (Fall 1979): 83-92.

35. In Cambridge History of American Literature (New York, 1917), 1:vi.

36. In Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 1 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society Fifth Series, 1878), 58. See also Winslow, Samuel Sewall of Boston, 152-56.

37. Emary Elliot, Power and the Pulpit in Puritan New England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 189.

38. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, 2 vols. (Hartford, 1820), 1:302, 2:97.

39. Cotton Mather, Theopholis Americana (Boston, 1710), 43-44.

40. See Edward R. Lambert, History of the Colony of New Haven (New Haven, 1838), 50.

41. Celadon [pseud.], The Golden Age (n.p., 1785), esp. 12-14.

42. See Norman Cohn, Pursuit of the Millennium, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 283-306.

43. See Clarke, The Holy Bible, s.v. Isa. 52:14, where he states that “most interpreters understand this of the indignities offered to our blessed Lord.”

44. E[dward]. S[trut]. Abdy, Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States of North America, From April, 1833, to October, 1834, 3 vols. (London, 1835), 3:41. See also Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 17-18, 71-72.

45. Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, et al., Kirtland, Ohio, to John Thornton et al., Liberty, Missouri, 25 July 1836, in the Messenger and Advocate 2 (Aug. 1836): 357.

46. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 145.

47. Henry King to John Chambers, 14 July 1843, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-81, Iowa Superintendency, 1838-49 (Washington, DC: National Archives Microfilm), qtd. in Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), 146.

48. See LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

49. [Roger Williams], The Bloudy Tenent ([London], 1644), 138.

50Memoir of Elder Abner Jones by His Son, A.D. Jones (Boston, 1842), 27-28.

51. MacClenny, Early History of the Christian Church, 248-49.

52Christian Baptist 3 (1 Aug. 1825): 9-10.

53. Ibid., 2 (4 July 1825): 237.

54Memoir of Elder Abner Jones, 34-36, 48.

55. Ibid., 64. See also The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travels and Sufferings of Elias Smith (Portsmouth, 1816), 58.

56. William Garrett West, Barton W. Stone: Early American Advocate of Christian Unity (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1954), 61, 75.

57. MacClenny, Early History of the Christian Church, 117.

58. Despite his early primitivist leanings, Smith later changed the church’s name to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ [Richmond, MO, 1887], 73; see also Joseph Smith Jr. et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2nd ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1948], 2:63). After some debate over this name, Smith received a revelation on 26 April 1838 announcing that the name should now be: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (D&C 115:4).

59. See chapter 16.

60. So as not to contradict Jesus’ statement that none of that generation was lost (3 Ne. 27:30-31), Mormon later makes it clear that the three disciples were persecuted after the first generation had passed away (4 Ne. 1:30-33).

61. See Hector Lee, The Three Nephites: The Substance and Significance of the Legend in Folklore, University of New Mexico Publications in Language and Literature, No. 2 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1949). See chapter 30 of this book where I discuss the possibility that Smith’s and Cowdery’s subsequent vision of Peter, James, and John was originally understood within this genre.

62. Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews; or, The Tribes of Israel in America (Poultney, VT, 1825), 187.

63. John V[an]. N[ess]. Yates and Joseph W[hite]. Moulton, History of the State of New York (New York, 1824), 45.

64. [Samuel Mather], An Attempt to Shew, that America Must be Known to the Ancients (Boston, 1773), 22-25.

65. See my discussion in Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986), 59-60.

66. Boturini is quoted by Kingsborough [Edward King], Antiquities of Mexico (London, 1831-48), in Lynn Glaser, Indians or Jews? (Gilroy, CA: Roy V. Boswell, 1973), 13.

67. Smith, View of the Hebrews, 204-207.

68. Ibid., 205.

69Painesville Telegraph, 15 Feb. 1831.

70. Joseph Smith’s 1839 history dates Samuel’s baptism to 25 May, whereas Lucy Smith said it occurred the same day as Joseph’s and Oliver’s baptisms (see EMD 1:77, 381). The history also has Samuel arrive in mid-May, although it is more likely that he arrived with Oliver on 5 April and remained.

71. Smith, Manuscript History, Book A-1, 21 (EMD 1:78).