Joesph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
by Dan Vogel
Nephi–A New Beginning
The morning after David Whitmer’s arrival in Harmony, the men probably began loading the wagon with what Joseph Smith would need during his stay in Fayette. Among his baggage would have been the nearly finished Book of Mormon manuscript—although not the gold plates, which were left behind hidden somewhere in the hills. Smith’s method of translating had rendered the plates irrelevant; indeed, from this point on, they will exist only spiritually, for in Fayette, no one will feel the weight of the metallic artifact in the box as people had done in Manchester and Harmony. For unspecified reasons, Emma decided to remain in Harmony. After bidding his wife farewell, Joseph climbed into the bed of Whitmer’s wagon and situated himself on the straw among the supplies. With a snap of the whip, Whitmer urged his team forward into what would be a new life for him and his two passengers. Passing Isaac Hale’s and Nathaniel Lewis’s homes, the three men looked forward to what they believed would be a more tolerant community in New York.
Sometime during their three days on the road, Whitmer had a strange encounter which he would later recount with varying detail. In 1877, he told Edward Stevenson that while returning to Fayette, he saw “an aged man about 5 feet 10, heavy set and on his back an old fashioned army knapsack strapped over his shoulders and something square in it, and he walked alongside of the wagon and wiped the sweat off his face, smiling very pleasant.” When Whitmer asked if he needed a ride, the man replied, “I am going across to the hill Cumorah.” After the man passed, “they felt strangely and stopped, but could see nothing of him [for] all around was clear and they asked the Lord about it.” Whitmer said that “the Prophet looked as white as a sheet and said that it was one of the Nephites and that he had the plates.”1
This story was repeated for the benefit of Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt in 1878 and again for Edward Stevenson in 1886.2 Whitmer told Smith and Pratt that the stranger was “a very pleasant, nice looking old man … about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches and heavy set … dressed in a suit of brown, woolen clothes; his hair and beard were white.” In this version, the square object in the man’s sack was “shaped like a book.” In addition, the invitation for the stranger to ride is prefaced “by a sign from Joseph,” presumably a salute or greeting. This is absent from the Stevenson interviews. In the 1877 Stevenson version, Whitmer is not surprised when the stranger mentions the “hill Cumorah.” But the following year, Whitmer tells Smith and Pratt: “This was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant.” In the published version of Smith’s and Pratt’s interview, Whitmer says: “We all gazed at him [the stranger] and at each other, and as I looked round inquiringly of Joseph the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.” Whitmer told Stevenson that they noticed the man’s absence sometime later when they had a strange feeling.
The Stevenson interview of 1886 adds minor details such as that the stranger put his “hand on the wagon bed,” that the “Strap” of the “knapsack … crossed on his breast,” and that the man used a “handkerchief” to wipe the sweat from his face—whereas the Smith-Pratt version has the man wipe his face with his hand. Declining Whitmer’s invitation for a ride, the stranger states in the 1886 version: “I am only going over to Cumorah,” upon which he “suddenly disappeared.” The implication is that the three men saw the stranger disappear; that “they stopped the team amazed at the sudden disappearance of the fine looking stranger.” This is when “they all felt so strangely … [and] they asked the Prophet to enquire of the Lord who this stranger was,” whereupon “they turned around and Joseph looked pale almost transparent and said that [the man] was one of the Nephites, and [that] he had the plates of the Book of Mormon in the knapsack.”
Interpreting this event is difficult, not only because of the conflicting details but because of Whitmer’s need to tell the story in such a way as to head off skepticism. In 1877, he told Stevenson that he and the others felt strange, stopped the wagon, and then noticed that the stranger was gone. This version leaves open the possibility that the stranger had simply left the road unnoticed. The following year, Whitmer told Smith and Pratt that the man seemed to vanish into thin air when Whitmer momentarily turned to look at Smith, which makes a naturalistic explanation more difficult. Nearly a decade later, Whitmer would remove speculation by rearranging the story’s elements so that they see the stranger disappear, stop the wagon, and then experience a strange feeling. This seems to be an instance where Whitmer’s fairly reliable memory shifted over time to conform to his subsequent psychological needs. The first version is likely closer to the truth, at least as initially perceived by Whitmer.
Another indication that the story evolved is where the stranger mentions “Cumorah.” In 1877, this elicits no reaction from Whitmer, who continues to drive until he gets a strange feeling. By 1878, Whitmer has become certain that he had never heard of Cumorah before, and this was proof to those interviewing him, and perhaps to himself, that the man was neither ordinary nor imaginary. However, the mention of Cumorah is problematic since the road to Fayette was in line with Manchester and, presumably, the stranger would have been happy to accept a ride. The 1877 version again seems closer to the truth. If all were otherwise normal, one wonders why the mention of Cumorah would cause Whitmer to turn to look “inquiringly” at Smith, as if Smith would know something about Cumorah. It is possible that in later years, Whitmer convinced himself that the Cumorah designation had come from the stranger rather than from Smith in explaining who the stranger was.
By giving the 1877 version priority, we can imagine that the stranger left the road and passed into the woods or disappeared behind a bluff while Whitmer and the others were distracted. Oddly, the account suggests this by explaining that they noticed the stranger’s absence “soon after they passed.” Was this soon after they passed the stranger or when they passed something else—some change in the terrain such as a clearing, woods, or gully? Smith may have given this a supernatural interpretation when, in reality, it was merely an old Methodist circuit preacher carrying his Bible to his next meeting.
Whitmer told Stevenson in 1877 that when they arrived at Whitmer’s father’s home in Fayette, “they were impressed that the same person was under the shed and again they were informed [by Smith] that it was so.”3> Elaborating in 1886, Whitmer said “the[y] felt the influence of this same personage around them for … there was a heavenly feeling with this Nephite.”4 In 1878, Whitmer said that soon after their arrival in Fayette, “I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was.”5
The Whitmer family may have stayed up late that first night to hear all about the gold plates, and Smith may have read portions of the manuscript to them. The next morning, when David’s mother, Mary, went to the barn to milk the cows, she saw the same old man that her son had seen on the road. David recalled in 1877 that she “saw the person at the shed and he took the plates from a box and showed them to her … [and] he turned the leaves over [and] this was a satisfaction to her.”6> According to David, the messenger spoke comforting words to his mother, who was troubled by the burden of feeding two more mouths: “You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors but you are tried because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness, that your faith may be strengthened.”7 Whitmer remembered that his mother correctly described the plates, including that a portion of them was sealed.8
Smith and Cowdery probably wasted no time in resuming their translating labors, evidently working in the main room on the ground floor of Peter Whitmer Sr.’s one-and-a-half-story log cabin. As people in Fayette learned what Smith was doing and began calling at the Whitmer home, it became necessary to shield Smith and Cowdery from the curious. “In order to give privacy to the proceeding,” Whitmer recalled in 1885, “a blanket, which served as a portiere, was stretched across the family living room to shelter the translators and the plates from the eye of any who might call at the house while the work was in progress.”9 Later, after the arrival of Emma, the work was conducted in an upstairs room.
As an occasional eye-witness to the translation, David Whitmer remembered that Smith’s method was the same as had been described by others in Harmony: “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light, and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”10
Of course, Whitmer witnessed the external procedure, whereas the inner workings of the translation—the operation of the stone from the point of view of the seer—would have come from Smith. It is no coincidence that Whitmer’s description is nearly identical to Harris’s.11 Whitmer was already convinced that Smith had seen him in his seer stone, so Whitmer had no difficulty believing that the stone was a visual medium, not simply an aid to spiritual impressions.12 Despite Smith’s claim of a mechanical, God-given translation, it was evident that spiritual acuity was needed. “I have frequently placed it to my eyes,” Whitmer told a reporter in 1875, “but could see nothing through it.”13 Apologetic concerns led Whitmer to overstate the mechanics of the process. “Sometimes Joseph could not pronounce the words correctly, having had but little education,” Whitmer told James H. Hart in 1884, “and if by any means a mistake was made in the copy, the luminous writing would remain until it was corrected. It sometimes took Oliver several trials to get the right letters to spell correctly some of the more difficult words, but when he had written them correctly, the characters and the interpretation would disappear, and be replaced by other characters and their interpretation.”14
The physical evidence does not support Whitmer’s description. Variant spellings of words, including proper names, and various scribal errors appear uncorrected in the original manuscript. This led Royal Skousen to dispute that Smith had “iron-clad control” over the production, preferring instead to see it in terms of “tight control” where “the accuracy of the resulting text depend[ed] on the carefulness of Joseph Smith and his scribe.”15> Some of the corrections cannot be easily attributed to immediate oversight of the scribes’ work but are more clearly later revisions. A sample of the kinds of strikeouts and interlinear additions, indicated by carets (^^), on the portion of the original manuscript that was dictated at the Whitmer home is given below. The first few examples are corrections that may have been made during the dictation but are more substantive than Whitmer’s description suggested:16
1 Nephi 3:30: … after that he ^the angel^ had spake …
1 Nephi 5:6: … and after this manner ^of language^
did my father Lehi comfort my mother …
1 Nephi 12:5: … i saw the vaper of the earth ^darkness^
that it past from off the fase of the earth …
2 Nephi 1:20: … but inasmuch as ye will not ^keep his
^my^ commandments^ ye shall be cut
off from his ^my ^ presence …
The following changes are less easily assigned to the time of the dictation in part because they were made in a heavier ink, perhaps in a different hand:
1 Nephi 3:16: … & all this he hath done because of the
commandment ^of the Lord^ for he …17
1 Nephi 11:36: … the great and spacious building was the
pride of the world ^& it fell^ and the
fall thereof was exceeding great …18
1 Nephi 12:4: … and i saw the earth that it rent ^&^
the ro[c]ks ^that they rent^ & i saw …19
1 Nephi 20:11: … for how should I ^I will not^ suffer
my name to be polluted …20
These corrections contradict the assertion that the dictation was free of emendation. They are also incongruent with the overstated claims of Whitmer, Harris, Emma Smith, and others. It is not that the manuscript went through a major rewrite, but the author polished the text, both at the time of the dictation and thereafter, improving the style and clarity as he went as any other author would do. Nor did the editing stop when the book was published. Modifications continued to be made through five major editions—two during Smith’s lifetime—and number in the thousands. Readers of the current edition should be mindful that the text has been refined by more than 150 years of careful editing.
Soon Emma came to Fayette. Whitmer remembered: “Emma … came to my father’s house a short time after Joseph and Oliver came, and she wrote a little of the translation, my brother Christian wrote some, but Oliver wrote the greater portion of it.”21 While David remembered Christian’s scribal work, Smith mentioned that “John Whitmer, in particular, assisted us very much in writing during the remainder of the work.”22
Like most writers, Smith occasionally experienced creative frustration. Whitmer said that Smith sometimes “found he was spiritually blind and could not translate. He told us that his mind dwelt too much on earthly things, and various causes would make him incapable of proceeding with the translation.”23 One specific instance involved Emma: “One morning when [Joseph] was getting ready to continue the translation,” Whitmer said, “something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable.” Perhaps, under the pressure of the forced move from Harmony, Joseph and Emma were experiencing marital difficulty. Assuming that Whitmer is right about sensitivity to environmental disturbances, Joseph had momentarily lost his focus. Whitmer remembered Joseph’s response: “He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord, was gone about an hour—came back to the house, and asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right.”24
When he resumed dictating in Fayette, Smith turned, if not to the Book of Moroni, then to “The [First] Book of Nephi.”25 In revisiting the same historical period he had previously covered in the lost manuscript, roughly 600 to 125 B.C., he had to be careful not to contradict his previous writing, not being certain that the manuscript had been destroyed. To avoid discrepancies, he chose to replace Mormon’s abridgement of the “Book of Lehi” with the record of Nephi, which according to Smith’s May 1829 revelation and Nephi’s later statement (Doctrine and Covenants 10; 1 Ne. 9:1-6; 19:1-3; hereafter D&C) was primarily religious in nature and less concerned with political or historical matters. Yet, when Smith begins to dictate the superscription to Nephi’s book, he sketches the historical material but is vague about the religious content. There is no mention of Lehi’s dream or Nephi’s prophecies, both central elements in Nephi’s account. While Nephi would have known what he was going to include in his book, Smith evidently did not know beforehand what he would be inspired to dictate.
Instead of beginning with “I, Mormon, …”26 Smith’s replacement text opens: “I, Nephi …” This was an autobiographical form that Smith was familiar with, for Grandfather Mack had similarly begun his life’s story: “I, Solomon Mack …”27> Declaring himself to be the son of “goodly parents,” a phrase Smith would borrow in 1832 to describe himself,28 Nephi states that in his youth he was “taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Ne. 1:1). Smith’s father was a teacher. Joseph and his siblings had undoubtedly received most of their instruction at home. Although Lehi was apparently more financially secure than Joseph’s father was, Nephi nevertheless had “seen many afflictions in the course of my days” (1:1). In 1832, Smith complained that prior to his 1823 vision, his family had “suffered many persecutions and afflictions.”29
At the outset, Nephi declares that he has made his record by “commandment of the Lord” and “according to my knowledge” (1 Ne. 1:3; cf. 9:3, 5; 19:2, 3), that he is qualified for the task, being “highly favored of the Lord,” and that he possesses “a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God” (1:1). In other words, Nephi has received a specific command, but he is going to accomplish the task according to his own ability; at least, he seems to have only limited inspiration to rely on at this point regarding what the record might contain. All of this seems to reflect Smith’s own approach to the dictation. Like Nephi, Smith no doubt believed that he had been called of God because of his qualifications—his knowledge of God’s mysteries and his relationship with Christ—but was left to his own talent to produce the text. Even according to Nephi, the Book of Mormon is scripture not by direct revelation, although it does contain some revelations, but because it is created by God’s command by one who has a keen spiritual understanding.
Nephi’s record will be written “in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1:2). This is usually understood to mean that Nephi wrote in Hebrew with Egyptian characters, although some interpret this to mean that he spoke Hebrew but wrote in the Egyptian language.30 Whatever the intended meaning is, it attempts to reconcile the Hebrew origin of the American Indians with the discovery of hieroglyphic-like writing among the Maya of Central America and the pictographic rock paintings of the North American Indians.
In replacing the historical content of the lost manuscript, Smith has Nephi do what Mormon did, which is to prepare an abridgement of the Book of Lehi, comprising the first eight chapters of the modern editions. While this helps solve Smith’s dilemma, it is curious to think that Nephi would include this historical material, especially since he says he recorded it on his “other plates” (19:1-3). Smith’s demand for the lost historical material is greater than Nephi’s expressed need to preserve precious space on his “small” plates. Nevertheless, having Nephi abridge his father’s record was a way to effectively restore some of the material from the lost manuscript without inviting comparisons between the two.
Nephi begins by recounting a vision his father, Lehi, received at Jerusalem in response to the “many prophets” who were at the time warning the inhabitants of impending destruction if they did not repent. Nephi’s account of his father’s experience, which occurs when Lehi is praying in the wilderness, is oddly elliptical: “There came a pillar of fire and [it] dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly” (1:6). One suspects that Smith probably based this account on his own first vision experience but then added elements from the book of Exodus about Moses and the burning bush.
Following his wilderness vision, Lehi returns home and “cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen” (1:7). In this state, he experiences a dream vision which, unlike his previous experience, is described in detail: “He saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (v. 8). During this same dream vision, Lehi sees Jesus “descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day” (v. 9). He sees the twelve Jewish apostles, whose “brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament,” descending out of heaven and going among the inhabitants of the earth (vv. 10-11; cf. Rev. 12:1). Jesus comes before Lehi and hands him a book containing a prophecy about Jerusalem’s destruction and Jewish captivity in Babylon (vv. 11-13; cf. Rev. 5:1-9; 10:8-11).
One detects the dependence here on Smith’s second visionary experience when he, too, was given a book containing prophecies of imminent destruction. While the details of Smith’s visions were fluid and influenced by his further contemplations, including further study of the Bible, Lehi’s vision of the heavenly court draws on the experiences of Old Testament prophets Micaiah (1 Kings 22:19-22), Isaiah (Isa. 6), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1-3:21), and Daniel (Dan. 7:9-13; 10:1-21), as well as the experiences of Stephen (Acts 7:55-56) and John (Rev. 4:2-11) in the New Testament.31 In addition, it resembles what Smith’s contemporaries were reporting at the time, including Methodist Lorenzo Dow who, in 1833, recounted a dream from about 1791 when he was “taken up by a whirlwind and carried above the skies … [to] a glorious place, in which he saw a throne of ivory overlaid with gold, and God sitting upon it, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, and angels, and glorified spirits, celebrating praise—Oh! the joyful music!”32
Interestingly, the more Smith began to interpret his first vision as a calling to the ministry rather than a personal revelation, the more it began to take on the characteristics of a heavenly court vision in the retelling. In 1832, he mentioned that Christ appeared to him. In 1835, he said that he saw two personages and “many angels.”33 Like Lehi, his 1839 account leaves unanswered whether the experience was a dream: “When I came to myself again,” Smith recalled, “I found myself lying on my back looking into heaven.”34
When Lehi prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem and the Messiah’s coming, people seek to take his life (1:18-20). Therefore, the Lord commands him to depart with his family into the wilderness (2:1-2). Smith had just left Harmony under similar circumstances, but the narrative more likely reflects his situation prior to when he lost the Book of Mormon manuscript in 1828. Fleeing his enemies in Manchester, Smith—like Lehi—traveled “three days in the wilderness” and “pitched his tent [so to speak] in a valley by the side of a river of water” (v. 6). Much like the Susquehanna which winds its way south and empties into the north end of Chesapeake Bay and finally into the Atlantic Ocean, Lehi’s river “emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea” (v. 9). In setting up camp “by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea” (2:5), Lehi’s caravan traveled about 180 miles in a mere three days. While not impossible for camels moving at top speed, it is highly improbable for Lehi’s group which did not yet have a reason to hurry.35
In the wilderness setting, Lehi’s two oldest sons, Laman and Lemuel, rebel against him, while his two younger sons, Sam and Nephi, remain faithful and obedient. Nephi’s favor in his father’s eyes creates jealousy in the older brothers, and their growing hatred of Nephi generates conflict to drive the story for another thousand years.
Nephi explains that he gives only a partial account of his father’s record and that a full account may be found on his other plates (1 Ne. 9). Here one learns for the first time that Nephi has constructed two sets of plates: one containing “an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people,” the other a record of the “more part of the ministry” (v. 4). By creating two records, the material that was contained in the lost manuscript does not have to be repeated. Notice the ambiguity created by the fact that Nephi has named both sets of plates after himself (v. 2) so that whenever Mormon’s abridgment mentions the “plates of Nephi,” one is led to assume that both records are being referred to when at the time of dictation a second set of plates for Nephi had not been contemplated (e.g., Mosiah 1:6, 16; 28:11; Alma 37:2; 44:24).
Oddly, after Nephi abridges his father’s record and announces that he will “proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings” (10:1), he continues to recount his father’s prophecies (10:1-16). Why these would not have been part of Lehi’s record is not explained, but it may be that this material was not included in the lost manuscript. Indeed, the subjects Lehi discusses—especially the gathering of Israel, conversion of the Jews, restoration of the fullness of the gospel to the gentiles—are later developments in Smith’s thinking.
In reviewing Lehi’s prediction concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the restoration of Israel, Nephi includes a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah: “Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world” (10:4; cf. 19:8). In writing the first part of the Book of Mormon last, Smith is unaware of the problems he creates by inserting new theological material. For instance, Lehi’s 600-year prophecy is unknown to later writers. Alma is unaware of Lehi’s prediction when, in speaking of Jesus’ birth, he declares: “For the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice” (Alma 13:25). Samuel the Lamanite’s five-year prediction loses meaning in light of Lehi’s previous pinpoint accuracy in foretelling the date (Hel. 14:2).36
Similar to Paul’s allegory in Romans 11, Lehi compares Israel to an olive tree whose branches are broken off and scattered “upon all the face of the earth” (10:12), and then he prophecies that “after the Gentiles had received the fullness of the Gospel” in the last days, God will gather the “natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer” (v. 14). Thus, the mission of the Book of Mormon is revealed to be the conversion of the Indians.
As Nephi ponders his father’s teachings, he is suddenly “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” into a very high mountain where the “Spirit of the Lord” appears to him “in the form of a man” (11:1, 11). While some writers have wondered if this foreshadows Smith’s later teaching that the Holy Ghost is a “personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22),37 Nephi’s experience does not differ from that of the brother of Jared (Ether 3:6-16). In other words, Nephi sees the pre-mortal spirit of Jesus, in keeping with Smith’s modalism and Nephi’s later declaration that he saw Jesus (2 Ne. 11:2-3). The Spirit of the Lord asks Nephi, “What desirest thou?” Nephi answers: “I desire to behold the things which my father saw” (11:2-3). “Look!” the Spirit exclaims. Nephi sees the same tree his father had seen, which is a beautiful, white tree (v. 8). Nephi asks the true meaning of the tree (v. 11), implying that Lehi had not completely understood his own vision. As the son begins to interpret the symbols in his father’s dream, one is reminded of Joseph Jr.’s relationship with his father, whose dream was similar to Lehi’s. Significantly, Smith will transform the symbols of his father’s dreams into a refutation of Universalism.
The Spirit suddenly disappears and a new vision opens. Nephi sees Palestine, then Nazareth, and then “a virgin” whom he describes as “exceedingly fair and white” (11:13). An angel descends from heaven and asks: “Nephi, what beholdest thou?” (11:14). Nephi answers: “A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins” (v. 15). The angel asks: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (11:16), and declares: “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh” (v. 18).38 Nephi sees the virgin “carried away in the Spirit … for the space of a time” (v. 19; cf. Luke 1:35). A moment later, the angel exclaims: “Look!” And Nephi sees “the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms” (v. 20). Then the angel declares: “Behold, the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father” (v. 21).39
The angel’s teaching on the “condescension of God” strikes at the heart of the Unitarian-Universalist denial of Jesus’ deity. In Smith’s modalism, Mary was literally the “mother of God, after the manner of the flesh” and Jesus was “the Eternal Father.” This receives confirmation by the “Spirit of the Lord” being replaced by an angel just before the sequence involving God’s condescension, underlining the idea that God as a spirit had literally become flesh.
The angel asks Nephi: “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (11:21), to which he answers: “Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things” (v. 22). Here Nephi alludes to Romans 5:5. In The Character of a Methodist (1742), John Wesley referred to this same passage when he said a true Methodist is “one who has ‘the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him.’”40
The angel shows Nephi a vision of Jesus’ ministry among the Jews: his baptism by John, the calling of twelve apostles, his healing of the sick, his death on the “cross … for the sins of the world” (vv. 26-33). As a symbol of God’s love, the tree becomes the cross—a representation of how God becomes flesh and suffers for the sins of the world on a tree, another correction of Unitarian-Universalist doctrine.
Nephi learns that the “rod of iron” leading to the tree of life—a rope in Joseph Sr.’s dream—represents the “word of God” (11:25). Those who hold to the scriptures can traverse the “mists of darkness” and “temptations of the devil” (12:17) to partake of God’s love. Concerning the “large and spacious building” which Lehi saw floating high above the ground (8:26), Nephi is told it represents “the world and the wisdom thereof,” “the pride of the world,” and the “vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men” (11:35, 36; 12:18). Nephi learns that the building is filled with those who “fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (11:35-36) and that the falling of the building is their destruction (v. 36).
Lehi’s “river of water” or the “beautiful stream of water” in Joseph Sr.’s dream (cf. Rev. 22:1) touches again on Joseph Sr.’s Universalism. Lehi saw both a “river of water” and “head of the fountain” (8:13, 19, 20, 26) and saw that “many were drowned in the depths of the fountain” (v. 32). Nephi’s interpretation becomes confused when he states that, on the one hand, “the fountain of living waters … are a representation of the love of God” (11:25) and that on the other hand, “the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell” (12:16).41 Nephi says his father’s “mind was swallowed up in other things” so that he did not notice “the filthiness of the water” (15:27). What is unexplained is how Lehi could see people drowning in the fountain yet not see that the water was filthy. However, of all the interesting images and imprecise details, what is most remarkable is the view of revelation as subject to changing interpretations by infallible prophets whose prerogative it is to correct and improve on their predecessors’ teachings. It is by no means a coincidence that Nephi chooses to correct what he sees as an error in his father’s view on the punishment of the wicked.
The angel continues to show Nephi world events, including the many wars and contentions that will arise between the Nephites and Lamanites. Nephi sees the darkness and destruction that will accompany Jesus’ crucifixion and the Savior’s subsequent appearance to the Nephites and appointment of the Nephite twelve (12:1-8). That Christ’s American ministry was not mentioned in the lost manuscript is evident from the fact that there is no awareness of it in the subsequent material until Alma II makes a vague reference to it about 83 B.C. (Alma 7:8). “Benjamin, Abinadi, both Almas—all of whom know minute details of Jesus’ life—never mention that a glorified Christ will appear to the Lehites,” observes Brent Metcalfe. “When, for the first time in Mormon’s abridgement, priests teach the Nephites ‘that [Jesus] would appear unto them after his resurrection’—absent any reference to Nephi’s prodigious vision—‘the people did hear with great joy and gladness’ [Alma 16:20], seemingly acknowledging the newness of the idea.”42 For the rewrite, Smith dictated with the advantage of hindsight, knowing what would come after. In his vision, Nephi continues to watch as three generations of righteous Nephites pass away, then the gradual decline until the Nephites and Lamanites gather for their last struggle (12:11-20). Finally, he sees that the Lamanites “dwindle in unbelief” to become “a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (vv. 22-23).
Nephi is shown “the great and abominable church” that rules among the kingdoms of the gentiles (13:1-9), a reference to the Roman Catholic church.43 The terminology draws from the “great whore” of Revelation 17, which anti-Catholics often cited in the nineteenth century as a favorite proof-text. As in the Apocalypse, Nephi specifically sees the “great whore” (14:12//Rev. 17:1) as she “sat upon many waters” (14:11, 12//Rev. 17:1), the “mother of harlots” (13:34; 14:16, 17//Rev. 17:5) and the “mother of abominations” (14:9, 16//Rev. 17:5). Near the end of this account, a specific connection is made to Revelation, the source of these references, when Nephi sees the apostle John and learns that he will see many of the same things and that “he shall also write concerning the end of the world” (14:22, 24).
Commenting on the passage in Revelation 17 and the term, the “great whore,” Methodist Adam Clarke expressed a typical early nineteenth-century Protestant interpretation when he wrote: “No doubt can now be entertained that this woman is the Latin Church. … The state of the Latin Church from the commencement of the fourteenth century to the time of the Reformation … corresponds to this prophetic description in the most literal and extensive sense of the words; for during this period she was at her highest pitch of worldly grandeur and temporal authority.”44 On 12 March 1825, the New York Telescope reported: “Our clergy call the church of Rome ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.”
Nephi sees that this most evil of churches “slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity” (13:5; cf. Jer. 28:14). John similarly saw that the whore was “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:6). Clarke interpreted this to be “the cruelties exercised by the Latin Church against all it’s denominated heretics.”45
John understands that the “many waters” upon which the woman sits, represent “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:15). Concerning this, Clarke commented: “She herself glories in the title of the Catholic Church, and exults in the number of her votaries as a certain proof of the true religion.”46 While the imagery of “many waters” is symbolic in Revelation, in Nephi’s vision it becomes literal when he sees that the “many waters … divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren [i.e., the Indian]” (13:10).
Nephi continues to watch as God inspires “a man among the Gentiles,” presumably Columbus, to cross the “many waters” and discover “the promised land” of America (13:10-12). The idea that Columbus was guided by God to discover America was commonly held in Smith’s day. As early as 1621, Robert Burton asserted: “Columbus did not find America by chance, but that God directed him.”47 Joel Barlow’s book-length poem, The Vision of Columbus, was published widely in America during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and has Columbus receiving a vision of the New World natives prior to his first voyage.48 What is curious about this is that Columbus was a devout Catholic and saw in America the opportunity to expand the Catholic religion, contrary to Smith’s dim view of Catholicism.49 But Smith’s goal was not to write an informed and reasoned history of America, but rather to exploit what Americans already believed about their past, to remind them of their divinely inspired origins, and to call them to repentance.
Nephi then sees other inspired gentiles, the Puritans and Pilgrims, who are led “out of captivity” to seek religious freedom in the New World (13:13). He sees that the “wrath of God” is upon the Indians, who are scattered and smitten by the early white settlers (v. 14), and that the “Spirit of the Lord” is with the gentiles, who prosper and receive America “for their inheritance” (vv. 15-16). He sees these transported gentiles in conflict with their “mother Gentiles” and that through the “power of God” the Americans prevail (vv. 17-19). He sees the Bible among the gentiles and perceives that it has been altered by the “great and abominable church” (vv. 20-29), that “because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, … an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them” (v. 29).
Protestants liked to comment on the differences between the Catholic Douay Bible and their own Authorized Version. Adam Clarke mentioned the second commandment (Exod. 20:4), which forbids idolatry, and said: “To countenance its image worship, the Roman Catholic Church has left the whole of this second commandment out of the decalogue. … The verse is found in every MS. [manuscript] of the Hebrew Pentateuch that has ever yet been discovered. … This corruption of the word of God by the Roman Catholic Church stamps it, as a false and heretical Church, with the deepest brand of ever-[en]during infamy!”50 While Clarke corrected this instance of alleged tampering with the text by citing the earliest manuscripts available to him, Nephi raised uncertainty about the received text itself. This uncertainty was undoubtedly fueled by the knowledge that there were variant readings among various ancient manuscripts.51 Smith apparently considered the so-called “lost books” of the Bible to be a casualty of Roman censorship. Indeed, in addition to “correcting” and amending scattered passages throughout the Bible from 1830 to 1833 and essentially corrupting the ancient texts in his own way, Smith added the “Visions of Moses” and the “Prophecy of Enoch” to the Mormon canon, the latter of which he associated with other “books mentioned and referred to, in various places in the old and new testaments, which were now no where to be found.”52
As early as the seventeenth century, theologians debated whether the canon that had been established by Catholic councils was sufficient. Seventeenth-century English theologian John Toland wondered “how many true and spurious gospels or histories of Christ were extant in St. Luke’s time” (cf. Luke 1:1) and feared that “in the dark ages of popery, those we commonly call apocryphal books, were added to the Bible, so at the same time, and in as ignorant ages before, several others might be taken away, for not suiting all the opinions of the strongest party.”53 Expressing a similar view to Smith’s (D&C 91), Toland believed that the Apocrypha contained some truth but was “strangely adulterated, and full of interpolations.”54
While the body of textual evidence for both testaments has grown since Smith’s day, nothing has surfaced to support the wholesale alteration of the Bible. It is nevertheless important to understand Smith’s reasoning. First, it helped to explain the myriad interpretations and confusion that he confronted at home and in the world. Second, it justified additional revelation—the Book of Mormon—to clarify doctrine and interpretation. Because the Bible was seemingly unclear about such matters as the godhead, the duration of punishment, miracles and spiritual gifts, and the correct mode of baptism, Smith sought to clarify these issues authoritatively in a text that would contain the gospel in its “plainness” (e.g., 2 Ne. 25:4). This goal reflected both idealism and naivete, for despite the existence of the Book of Mormon, theological conflict would thrive even among his followers.
If the American gentiles would repent and accept the Book of Mormon, God’s promise to them was that “they shall be numbered among the house of Israel [Indians]; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever” (14:1-2). If they rejected God’s “marvelous work,” the angel tells Nephi, it would be “unto destruction, both temporally and spiritually” (v. 7). The reference is not only to the final destruction of the “great whore” but to Protestants and sectarians as well. Nephi is told that “there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations” (14:10).
Obviously, Nephi goes beyond the Protestant interpretation Revelation 17. This is evident from the beginning of the vision when he literalizes the term “mother of harlots” by saying, “I saw many harlots” (13:7), thereby including the Protestant churches. Mormon apostle Parley P. Pratt alluded to this passage in 1841 when he declared that Mormonism “claims no affinity with the ‘mother of harlots’ or any of her daughters.”55 This was hardly a unique claim since it was also the perception of Seekers and others in the primitive gospel movement, including the Separatists and Puritans. On 1 December 1834, the Apostolic Advocate of Richmond, Virginia, not only identified the woman of Revelation 17 with the “Western or Roman Church” but interpreted the title “Mother of Harlots” to mean “Mother of Churches.” One should be careful not to read too much into Smith’s rejection of Catholicism and its trajectories, for he is not yet making a distinction between his followers and all other churches. What Nephi says is not incompatible with Smith’s March 1829 revelation about the need for “reformation” (Book of Commandments 4:5) or the revelation of the previous month describing Christ’s church as being already present (D&C 10:52-56), something to which Nephi later alludes (22:22-23).
Nephi sees “the church of the Lamb of God” scattered among the gentile nations but observes that “its numbers were few” and that “their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore” (14:12). It is unclear if Smith intended to describe his future followers—those who would believe in the Book of Mormon—or those who belonged to the invisible church.
In any case, Nephi sees that the “great mother of abominations” gathers multitudes from the gentile nations “to fight against the Lamb of God” (14:13), which may allude to Revelation 17:14: “These [kingdoms] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them.” Nephi sees that the “wrath of God was poured out upon the great and abominable church, insomuch that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth” (14:15). While the wording alludes to Matthew 24:6, the concept of the gentile nations warring among themselves comes from Revelation 17:16-17. Moroni predicted that his father’s record would come forth in a day of “wars, and rumors of wars” (Morm. 8:30).
Smith believed that this era had commenced and that war was about to break forth with unprecedented intensity in America. Writing to the Colesville Saints in December 1830, Smith discussed the signs of the times and mentioned, among other things, the war “in Columbia, South America,” declaring that “peace is taken from the earth in part and it will soon be in whole, yea destructions are at our doors and they soon will be in the houses of the wicked, and they that know not God.”56 Later, in January 1831, Smith declares through revelation: “Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land” (D&C 38:29). In December 1832 when the southern states threatened to secede from the Union and civil war seemed imminent, Smith predicted a worldwide war “that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina … And it shall come to pass also that the remnants [Indians] who are left in the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation” (D&C 87:1, 5). Nephi is told that “when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, … then … the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel” (14:17). Smith links his own mission with a simultaneous outbreak of civil war, the destruction of spiritual Babylon, and the restoration of the Indians to their lands.
At this point, just as Nephi is about to describe events in Smith’s immediate future, he abruptly ends his account. Instead, he sees “a man … dressed in a white robe” (14:19). This man turns out to be the apostle John who will “also write concerning the end of the world” (v. 22). Nephi is to withhold the remainder of his vision because John was “ordained” to perform that task (v. 25). Perhaps realizing that this contradicts what is told to the brother of Jared (Ether 3:21-28), the angel then restates in the next verse that “others” in the past had seen the same things and “they have written them,” but “they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel” (v. 26; cf. 2 Ne. 27:7-8).
Nephi returns from the mountain to his father’s tent and finds his brothers arguing about the meaning of Lehi’s teachings (15:1-2). Indeed, the concepts are “hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord” (v. 3). Particularly puzzling to Nephi’s brothers is the imagery of “natural branches of the olive-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles” (15:7; cf. 10:11-16). After chiding his brothers for being so uninspired, Nephi explains that the olive tree represents the “house of Israel”; and the breaking off and scattering of its “natural branches,” the scattering of Israel, including Lehi’s posterity in the New World (v. 12). Lehi’s remarks about “grafting in of the natural branches” pertain to Israel’s gathering and restoration (vv. 13-20). After the gentiles have taken the Book of Mormon to the Indians, the latter will learn of their Israelitish heritage and be converted; they will be “grafted” onto the “true olive-tree” (vv. 12-16). Thus, the gentiles will play a role in fulfilling biblical prophecy, not unlike the strategy that Ethan Smith outlined: “If our natives be indeed from the tribes of Israel, American Christians may well feel, that one great object of their inheritance here, is, that they may have a primary agency in restoring those ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel.’”57
In explaining the symbols to his brothers, Nephi emphasizes once again that his father had not understood the meaning of his own dream. Simultaneously, Smith is reinterpreting his own father’s nearly identical dreams. But as Nephi continues to see ever more significance in the symbols, he begins to confuse the meanings he previously assigned to them and forgets who saw what, adding elements that neither he nor his father had previously mentioned. For instance, when he returns to the meaning of the river as being a representation of “that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked” (15:29; cf. 12:16), he now expands the meaning to include the “awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life” (v. 28). Explaining that his father “saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous” (v. 30), he forgets that, in fact, Lehi had seen only that the river separated the wicked from the tree of life. It was Nephi who associated the river with the justice of God (12:18). Nephi then adds embellishment when he says that Lehi saw that the “brightness” of God’s justice was “like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end” (15:30). What is occurring here is that Smith is transforming his father’s dreams into an ever more explicit anti-Universalist statement, in this case having to do with the eternity of hell.
Nephi’s brothers have another question which easily could have come from the mouth of a nineteenth-century Universalist: “Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?” (15:31). Nephi explains that the torment of the wicked is “both temporal and spiritual,” for “if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness” (vv. 32, 33; cf. John 8:21).58> They cannot be saved because “there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy” (v. 34; cf. Rev. 22:11). Once again, Nephi interprets his father’s dream as an anti-Universalist statement.
When the family later arrives in the “promised land” of America, Nephi will make his “first” set of plates, which Book of Mormon students often refer to as the large plates of Nephi, upon which he will engrave his father’s record (19:1). Nephi explains that when he makes this first set of plates, he does not know that he will be commanded to make the present record, commonly referred to as the small plates of Nephi (v. 2). For those—such as Emma and Martin Harris—who could recall the contents of the lost manuscript, or perhaps in the event that the manuscript should resurface, Nephi explains that “the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness,” are recorded upon his first plates (v. 2). Repeating information given in an earlier portion of his book (1 Ne. 9), Nephi explains that his second set of plates is reserved for the recording of “sacred things” (v. 5).
Having stated his purpose, Nephi launches into an exposition on the prophecies (1 Ne. 19:8-22:31), reiterating Lehi’s prediction that Jesus will come in 600 years, although this time he states that it is “according to the words of the angel” (19:8; cf. 10:4). The reiteration of Lehi’s prediction alerts us to the probability that the material at the end of Nephi’s first book was not part of the lost manuscript.
Nephi foresees that Jesus will be scourged, smitten, spat upon (19:9; cf. Matt. 27:26-30). From prophecies he says are contained on the brass plates but are not part of the Old Testament, Nephi knows that Jesus will be taken by wicked men to be “lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel” (19:10). These predictions are striking for their clarity and their depiction of a “suffering Messiah,” a concept that did not develop until centuries later. It is doubtful that Isaiah and his contemporaries would have associated the “suffering servant” (e.g., Isa. 53) with messianic prophecy, as did the early Christian church (e.g., Matt. 8:17).59
The idea that an ancient Israelite prophet named Zenos would have predicted three days of darkness—fulfilled only in America (referred to here as an “isle of the sea”)—rather than three hours of darkness experienced in the Old World seems highly suspicious. Evidently not satisfied with Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy of three days (Hel. 14:20, 27), Smith connects the prediction with a Hebrew authority, albeit one of his own creation. In doing so, he compounds the problem that, although the prophet Zenos will be later quoted on another matter (Hel. 15:11), Samuel the Lamanite learns the signs of Jesus’ death from an angel rather than from reading the words of Zenos (14:26-28).
Smith’s use of the phrase “isles of the sea” is another way to connect America with the Old Testament, particularly to Isaiah 11:11-12, which Smith attributes to the mysterious Zenos: “The Holy One of Israel … will remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, … from the four quarters of the earth” (19:15, 16). It should be noted that Smith was not alone in trying to identify America in Isaiah’s prophecies. Commenting on this very passage from Isaiah, Ethan Smith asserted that “America … surely is one of the four corners of the earth.”60 Ethan Smith and others believed that “the land shadowing with wings” in Isaiah 18:1 also referred to America.61
Nephi quotes Zenos’ prophecy of the destruction that will occur in America at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion: “The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, … and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up” (19:11). This repeats the problem associated with Samuel’s predictions, which the latter makes without citing Zenos (Hel. 14:20-27). At the time of the prophecy’s fulfillment, however, Mormon will mention both Samuel and Zenos (3 Ne. 8:3; 10:16). Nevertheless, the wording of Zenos’ prophecy seems to be loosely based on John 10:16, especially as interpreted in 3 Nephi 15:16-16:3 where both the Nephites and the ten tribes are to “hear [Jesus’] voice” and Isaiah 29:6, a passage Smith subsequently connects with America (2 Ne. 27), declaring: “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of Hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.”
Nephi’s extended discussion of Zenos’ predictions shows the need to have the Book of Mormon supported by ancient texts. How could Old Testament prophets know so much—through the lens of New Testament interpretation—about the destruction of Jerusalem, the coming of Jesus, the scattering and gathering of Israel, yet so little of the Jews in America? Nephi states that God showed the prophets “all things” concerning Israel, then adds: “and also he did show unto many [of the prophets] concerning us” (19:21).
Nephi tries to convince his brothers by reading from the brass plates “that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer[, and] I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah” (19:23). After declaring that Isaiah’s prophecies pertain to “all the house of Israel,” of which Lehi’s posterity is a “remnant” or “branch … broken off,” Nephi exhorts his brothers to “liken them [the prophecies] unto yourselves” (v. 24). He quotes two complete chapters from Isaiah—48 and 49 (1 Ne. 20-21)—which deal primarily with the gathering of Israel.62
Ethan Smith quoted the following portion of Isaiah 49: “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far. … And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west.” (vv. 1, 11-13). Consistent with Nephi’s understanding of the passage, Ethan Smith commented: “Such texts have a special allusion to the lost tribes of the house of Israel. And their being called over mountains, and over seas, from the west, and from afar, receives an emphasis from the consideration of their being gathered from the vast wilds of America.”63
Nephi’s brothers ask: “What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?” (22:1). This question reflects the nineteenth-century tendency to spiritualize the scriptures, which Smith objected to. Catholics and Presbyterians understood the gathering of Israel to concern Christians, or “spiritual Israel,” as they gathered in church.
Nephi declares that the prophecies pertain to “things both temporal and spiritual,” that the prophecies have been made through the inspiration of the spirit but that they will “come upon the children of men according to the flesh” (22:2, 3). Early Mormons, like other primitivists, were biblical literalists.64 Oliver Cowdery complained in 1834 that “it is only the weak and vain schemes of men in spiritualizing and interpreting, which have rendered the bible obscure and unintelligible. This whole spiritualizing and interpreting business,” he said, “originated in unbelief.”65 Ethan Smith was a literalist who believed that “both Israel and the Jews shall, in the last days, before the Millennium, be literally restored to their own land of Palestine, and be converted to the Christian faith. To give a mystical import to all these prophecies, and say they will be fulfilled only in the conversion of these ancient people of God to Christianity is to take a most unwarrantable liberty with the word of God.”66
Nephi declares that the dispersion is literal, that “Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations” (22:3). The gathering, too, is literal. Interpreting Isaiah 49:22-23, Nephi says that the gentiles will play a major role in this and that it will not occur until “after [Israel] shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their [Israelite] children have been carried in their [gentile] arms, and their [Israelite] daughters have been carried upon their [gentile] shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal” (22:6). Reminiscent of the Puritan goal of becoming a “City on a Hill,” a light to the nations, Nephi interprets the “set[ting] up” of God’s “standard” among the gentiles as an allusion to America. “The time cometh,” he states, “that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land” (22:7). After the Indians are scattered by the gentile Americans, God “will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed” (v. 8). Here Nephi alludes to the “marvelous work and a wonder” of Isaiah 29:14, which he later connects with Smith and the Book of Mormon (2 Ne. 25:17-18; 27:26). This “marvelous work,” Nephi declares, “is likened unto [the Indians] being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders” (22:8; cf. Isa. 49:22-23).
Early Mormons saw the U.S. government’s removal of Indians to the western territories in the 1830s as a fulfillment of Isaiah 49:22-23, at least as interpreted by Nephi. W. W. Phelps, editor of The Evening and The Morning Star in Independence, Missouri, wrote in December 1832: “It is not only gratifying, but almost marvelous, to witness the gathering of the Indians. … And is not this scripture fulfilling … through the instrumentality of the government of the United States? For it is written, [Isa. 49:22] … Thus said the prophet and so it is; and there is reason to rejoice that the great purposes of the Lord are fulfilling before our eyes.”67 The following month, Phelps returned to the theme: “When we see Indians gathered home by the government, we must exclaim; the hand of the Lord is too plain in all this, not to be noticed.”68 In a separate editorial, he wrote that “the United States continue to buy the land of Joseph [Indians], and become nursing fathers unto his children. … What a beauty it is to see the prophecies fulfilling so exactly.” This is followed in the editorial by Nephi’s interpretation of Isaiah 49:22-23 in 1 Nephi 22:6-12.69
Through the Book of Mormon, the Indians are to learn that they are Israelites and that their dispersion to the New World fulfills God’s promise to Abraham that “in thy seed shall all the nations be blessed” (22:9; cf. Gen. 22:18). Nephi argues that “all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless [God] shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations” (22:10; cf. Isa. 52:10). God shows his power by delivering Israel “out of captivity” and restoring them to the “lands of their inheritance” (v. 12). Alluding to Isaiah 29:18, Nephi declares that “[Israel] shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness” (v. 12). The Book of Mormon brings the Indians into the light of the gospel. To make this point, Nephi quotes the last line of Isaiah 49: “And they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel” (v. 12; cf. Isa. 49:26//1 Ne. 21:26).
Commenting on Isaiah 49:26—that the Lord “will feed them that oppress [Israel] with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine”—Nephi declares: “And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood. … And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed” (22:13-14). Thus, Nephi reiterates his prediction of “wars and rumors of wars” among the gentile nations (14:15), emphasizing at the same time that the saints will not participate in those wars.
This was not unlike the 1831 declaration of Alexander Campbell: “Christendom is to be the theatre of the most tremendous calamities and sudden disasters, terminating in that unexampled earthquake, which is to destroy the monarchies, and all the bastard progeny of the Mother of Harlots … as preliminary to the commencement of the reign of a thousand years.”70 Commenting on Isaiah 49:25-26, Adam Clarke said: “These two last verses contain a glorious promise of deliverance to the persecuted Church of Christ from the terrible one—Satan, and all his representatives and viceregents, [saint-]persecuting antichristian rulers. They shall at last cease from destroying the Church of God, and destroy one another.”71
Emphasizing the nearness of this event in relation to Joseph Smith’s time, Nephi quotes an unidentified prophet: “For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned” (22:15; emphasis added). While the first part of the quote may allude to the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2, 7 (cf. Ether 8:26), the second part modifies Malachi 4:1 which, although reaching farther into antiquity than Revelation, was written over a hundred years after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the addition of “soon” to Malachi’s prophecy (cf. D&C 29:9; 64:24) points to Smith’s sense of urgency regarding his mission.
Nephi declares that the fiery destruction of the wicked “must shortly come,” that it is not figurative but “cometh unto men according to the flesh if it so be that they will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel” (22:18). In common with Baptists and Methodists, Smith’s biblical literalism was of a pre-millennialist stripe, meaning that he believed the world would become increasingly wicked and that the millennium would begin only after Jesus had come to destroy the ungodly. This contrasted sharply with the view of post-millennialists—Catholics and Presbyterians, for instance—who believed that the world’s conditions were improving because of the gospel’s influence and that people’s righteousness would inaugurate the millennium prior to Jesus’ second coming. In 1834, Oliver Cowdery criticized the post-millennialists, commenting that “all the Millenium the Bible knows any thing about, is, the thousand years that Christ shall reign personally on the earth, after he has gathered all the saints together from one end of heaven to the other, and cut all the wicked off that there shall not one be left.”72
Nephi quotes Moses’ words, or more precisely Peter’s paraphrase in Acts 3:22-23 (cf. 3 Ne. 20:23), concerning the coming of “a prophet” like unto himself and that God would cut off anyone who rejected this prophet (22:20; cf. Duet. 18:17-19). The prophet is “the Holy One of Israel” (v. 21), Nephi declares. Using language similar to Smith’s in a May 1829 revelation, Nephi states:
And the righteous need not fear, for
they are those who shall not be con-
founded [cf. 1 Pet. 2:6; Isa. 28:16].
For the time speedily shall come that
all churches which are built up to get
gain; … yea, in fine, all those who be-
long to the kingdom of the devil are
they who need fear, and tremble, and
quake; … they are those who must be
comsumed as stubble; and this is accord-
ing to the words of the prophet. (1 Ne.
22:23;emphasis added; cf. Mal. 4:1)
Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my
church need not fear, for such shall in-
herit the kingdom of heaven.
But it is they who do not fear me,
neither keep my commandments but
build up churches unto themselves to
get gain, yea, and all those that do wick-
edly and build up the kingdom of the
devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you,
that it is they that I will disturb, and
cause to tremble and shake to the center.
Nephi’s reference to the “words of the prophet” is problematic because when Jesus later appears in America, he directs the Nephites to record this same chapter by Malachi who is unknown to them (3 Ne. 24-25). Nephi goes farther into the future and borrows from John’s gospel: “And [the Holy One of Israel] gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture” (22:25; cf. John 10:9, 16).
Describing the millennial reign of Jesus, Nephi states that “because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth” (22:26; cf. Rev. 20:2, 7). Nephi argues that Jesus’ millennial reign is not figurative or spiritual but “must come according to the flesh” (v. 27). While post-millennialists interpreted the reign of Jesus and the establishment of the “kingdom of God” figuratively, pre-millennialists believed in the literal return of Jesus and the literal establishment of the New Jerusalem government. On this matter, Oliver Cowdery editorialized:
There is no fact in the bible that is set forth more clearly, than that of Christ’s coming to reign on the earth with all the raised saints. … Not as some have said, a spiritual (which might be more properly called imaginary) reign; but literal, and personal, as much so as David’s reign over Israel, or the reign of any king on earth. All the inspired men have said that Christ shall reign over the earth literally; for literally the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ, and he shall reign on the earth.73
Nephi closes his first book exhorting his brothers to obey God and endure to the end so that they might “be saved at the last day” (22:31). This was undoubtedly also Smith’s concern about his own family. Like Nephi, Smith wanted to reconcile opposing views held by various family members, which meant that he not only had to confront his father’s Universalism, he also had to challenge the Presbyterian doctrines held by his mother and three siblings, whose post-millennialism probably led them to interpret the apocalyptic elements in Joseph Sr.’s dreams in a much different way.
1. Edward Stevenson, Journal, 22-23 Dec. 1877, 14:17-18, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, UT (see Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003], 5:30-31; hereafter EMD).
2. For Smith’s and Pratt’s interview of Whitmer, see Joseph F. Smith, Diary, 7-8 Sept. 1878, LDS Church Archives (EMD 5:44-45). This source, with slight changes, became the first published version of Whitmer’s story (see “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Deseret News, 16 Nov. 1878 [EMD 5:51-52]). For Stevenson’s second interview with Whitmer, see Edward Stevenson, Journal, 9 Feb. 1886, 24:34-35 (EMD 5:160). Joseph F. Smith’s statement of 25 April 1918, which retells his and Pratt’s 1879 interview with Whitmer, is tainted by later interpolation and should be used with caution (Joseph F. Smith Collection, LDS Church Archives [EMD 5:55]).
3. Stevenson, Journal, 22-23 Dec. 1877, 14:18 (EMD 5:31). The statement that the angel was under the “shed” perhaps relates to Smith’s claim, as reported by Willard Chase, that during his 1823 visit to the hill he had seen in the bottom of the hole “something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man” (see chapter 4 of this volume).
6. Stevenson, Journal, 22-23 Dec. 1877, 14:18 (EMD 5:31). For other accounts of Mary Whitmer’s experience, see Andrew Jenson, “Still Another Witness,” Historical Record 7 (Oct. 1888): 621 (EMD 5:261-62); and Edward Stevenson, “The Thirteenth Witness to the Plates of the Book of Mormon,” Juvenile Instructor 24 (1 Jan. 1889): 23 (EMD 5:262-63).
8. Stevenson, Journal, 9 Feb. 1886, 24:36-37 (EMD 5:161); and Edward Stevenson to Franklin D. Richards, 10 Jan. 1887, in Stevenson, Journal, 28:112 (EMD 5:189). Note, however, that Joseph Smith used the term “seal” figuratively in describing the record’s undecipherable language (Ether 3:21-22) and literally, as in putting the record into the ground (Moro. 10:2), but not to describe the physical appearance of the plates.
14. James H. Hart to Editor, 18 Mar. 1884, Deseret Evening News 17 (25 Mar. 1884) (EMD 5:104). See also James H. Hart to Editor, 18 Mar. 1884, Bear Lake Democrat (Paris, ID), 28 Mar. 1884 (EMD 5:108).
15. See Royal Skousen, “Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript,” in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997), 61-93; and Royal Skousen, “History of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon,” in M. Gerald Bradford and Alison V. P. Coutts, eds., Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 16-17.
16. These fragments—primarily consisting of 1 Nephi 2 through 2 Nephi 1, Alma 22 through Helaman 3, and a few scattered snippets—are housed in the LDS church archives. Another half sheet (from 1 Nephi 14) is owned by the University of Utah. See Royal Skousen, The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2001).
30. See Edward H. Ashment, “‘A Record in the Language of My Father’: Evidence of Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew in the Book of Mormon,” in Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 329-93.
31. While acknowledging similarity between Lehi’s throne theophany and the visionary calls of certain Old Testament prophets, Blake T. Ostler focuses on similarities between 1 Nephi and the pseudepigraphic writings of 1 and 2 Enoch, the Testament of Levi, Apocalypse of Abraham, and the Ascension of Isaiah (Blake T. Ostler, “The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi: A Form-Critical Analysis,” BYU Studies 26 [Fall 1986]: 67-95). These points of affinity are: (1) intercessory prayer; (2) revelation received on a bed or couch, indicating a loss of strength; (3) an ascension into heaven; (4) a vision of someone descending from the heavenly council, followed by twelve others; and (5) a prophecy of the Messiah’s coming and redemption of the world. Ostler’s parameters may be too narrow. For instance, he could have included the books of Daniel and Revelation, the latter of which shares, in common with Lehi’s prophetic call, a divine confrontation or vision of Jesus (1:10-18); loss of physical strength (1:17); ascension (4:1); throne theophany (4:2-11); angelic choir (4:8-11; 5:9; 14:2-3; 19:1-3); a heavenly book (5:1-9; 10:8-11); a prophecy of Jesus’ coming to destroy the wicked and reign a thousand years (5:5-14; 20:1-21:27); a prophetic commission (10:11); and reassurance (22:1-21). Seven of the twelve pseudepigraphic books, according to Ostler, describe the prophet’s ascension into heaven, as does Lehi in his vision. However, on this point Ostler is mistaken because Lehi is not “lifted into heaven” (73) but is “carried away in a vision,” figuratively rather than literally, so that from his position on earth, he “saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne.” This is also clear from the next verse: “And … he saw one descending out of the midst of heaven.” (v. 9). This is similar to how Nephi saw “the heavens opened,” followed by angels, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost descending (1 Ne. 11:14, 27, 30; 12:6). Seeing heaven while remaining on earth is not unlike Stephen’s theophany in the New Testament (Acts 7:55-56), the vision of Nephi and Lehi in the Book of Helaman (5:48), or Smith’s and Rigdon’s 1832 throne theophany (D&C 76:19-20). Ostler offers only one example of the descensus, a vision of Jesus descending from the heavenly council followed by the twelve apostles. Admitting that this element is not essential to the call narrative, Ostler nevertheless believes that its appearance in the Ascension of Isaiah presents “evidence of the Hebrew influence on Lehi’s account.” However, the Ascension of Isaiah dates to the Christian era (ca. 150 A.D.), and although some scholars believe that it incorporates an earlier source known as the Martyrdom of Isaiah, the particular elements cited by Ostler, that of the “Lord Christ” descending through the “firmament” followed by the “twelve disciples,” are Christian in origin. Because Lehi’s vision includes Christian elements, the Book of Mormon probably belongs in the same category with other post-Christian pseudepigrapha, whose authors’ motives were not unlike Smith’s (see Robert M. Price, “Joseph Smith: Inspired Author of the Book of Mormon,” in Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe, eds., American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002], 321-66).
32. Lorenzo Dow, The Dealings of God, Man, and the Devil, As Exemplified in the Life, Experience, and Travels of Lorenzo Dow, 4th ed. (Norwich, CT, 1833), 10. Ostler finds that early nineteenth-century throne theophanies were conversion stories, not prophetic commissions (Ostler, “The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi,” 84-87). It may not be appropriate to compare the two since Smith’s contemporaries were describing actual experiences and Smith was imitating scripture. Still, it is not true, as Ostler asserts, that none of Smith’s contemporaries referred to a divine confrontation (an “initial encounter of the recipient with a divine being of fiery glory prior to the theophany”), a council in heaven, a vision of the descensus, a prophetic commission, or Qedussa (heavenly choir). Dow’s 1791 throne theophany (quoted in the text) included the Qedussa, yet is listed by Ostler as one of the “early American visions of God [that] conform to the spiritual conversion account” (95, n. 51; Ostler references the wrong dream vision, one received by Dow shortly after his first experience). Ostler denies the existence of nineteenth-century descensus narratives but then quotes Jacob Knapp’s 1816 vision (misidentified as Benjamin Putnam’s 1821 vision): “I rose up quickly, turned my eyes toward heaven and I thought I saw Jesus descending.” This would be classed as a non-prophetic descensus since it does not predict that Jesus will descend to earth to become the Messiah, but it is a descension nonetheless. Ostler further contends that nineteenth-century accounts have neither a literary prologue nor a narrative conclusion, which “may describe the awakening or return to earth of the recipient, the departure of the revealer or the consequent actions of the recipient.” On the contrary, nineteenth-century narratives occasionally have a historical introduction (prologue) and conclusion. Lorenzo Dow begins: “When past the age of thirteen years, and about the time that John Wesley died, (1791) it pleased God to awaken my mind by a dream of the night,” then concludes: “With reluctance I left the beautiful sight and came back to the earth again. … I awakened behold it was a dream.” See also Mark D. Thomas, Digging in Cumorah: Reclaiming Book of Mormon Narratives (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 52, who similarly criticizes Ostler’s handling of the sources.
35. William J. Hamblin attempts to shorten the 180 miles to 130-40, saying that “even this distance may be excessive.” His reading of 1 Nephi 1:4-7 limits the three-day designation to the “wilderness” part of the trip; he then argues that the wilderness was outside the borders of Judea. This is discounted by Nephi’s superscription, which states: “The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem … He taketh three days’ journey into the wilderness with his family.” 1 Nephi 2:4 clearly states that Lehi “left his house, and the land of his inheritance … and departed into the wilderness,” implying that the wilderness was close by. There certainly would have been wilderness between cities, as much as outside the country. Note that Nephi otherwise refers to the environs just outside Jerusalem as “wilderness” (1 Ne. 3:27; 4:38; 5:6). See William J. Hamblin, “An Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metcalfe’s Assumptions and Methodologies,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994): 486-87.
37. See, e.g., Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 116-18; David L. Paulsen, “The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives,” BYU Studies 35 (1995-96): 17-19.
43. While Nephi’s “great and abominable church” has traditionally been interpreted to refer to the Roman Catholic church, Stephen E. Robinson, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, argues that Catholicism does not appear until after the events described by Nephi (Stephen E. Robinson, “Early Christianity and 1 Nephi 13-14,” in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, eds., The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1988], 177-91; and Stephen E. Robinson, “Warring against the Saints of God,” Ensign [Jan. 1988]: 34-39). However correct this may be, Nephi’s description is based on Revelation 17-18, which Protestants in Smith’s day interpreted as a reference to the Latin or Roman church and its successor, the Roman Catholic church (see below). One should probably not expect anti-Catholic rhetoric to be historically accurate, especially by an author who bases his discussion on an anachronistic use of the New Testament.
47. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (London, 1621; rpt. London, 1907), 401, cited in Gustav H. Blanke, “Early Theories about the Nature and Origin of the Indians, and the Advent of Mormonism,” Amerikastudien 25 (1980): 257. Some writers have mistakenly assumed that the Book of Mormon’s view of Columbus was unique and cite Columbus’s claims to inspiration as an endorsement of Nephi’s vision (see, e.g., Hyde M. Merrill, “Christopher Columbus and the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era [Feb. 1966]: 97-98, 135-36).
49. Columbus reflected on his discovery: “This is ever certain, that God grants to those that walk in his ways, the performance of things which seem impossible. … Our Savior having vouchsafed this victory to our most illustrious King and Queen and their kingdoms, famous for so eminent a deed, all Christians should rejoice, and give solemn thanks to the holy Trinity for the addition of so many people to our holy faith, and also the temporal profit accruing not only Spain, but to all Christians” (Personal Narrative of the First Voyage of Columbus to America. From a Manuscript Recently Discovered in Spain, trans. from Spanish [Boston, 1827], 263-64). When Columbus speaks of Christians, he means Catholics; Luther’s Reformation would not begin for two decades.
52. J. Smith, Manuscript History, 1839, 80 (EMD 1:139). For these so-called “lost books” of the Bible, see Num. 21:14 (Book of the Wars of the Lord); Josh. 10:13 (Book of Jasher); 1 Kings 11:41 (Book of the Acts of Solomon); 1 Chron. 29:29 (Book of Nathan the Prophet and Book of Gad the Seer); 2 Chron. 9:29 (Book of Nathan the Prophet, Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, Visions of Iddo the Seer); 12:15 (Book of Shemaiah the Prophet and Iddo the Seer) 20:34 (Book of Jehu); and Jude 1:14 (Prophecy of Enoch).
53. John Toland, Amyntor, or, A Defense of Milton’s Life: Containing I. A General Apology for All Writing of that Kind, II. A Catalogue of Books Attributes in the Primitive Times to Jesus Christ … (London, 1699), 49-50.
54. Ibid., 55. Traditionalists quickly responded to Toland to defend the integrity of the canon: Samuel Clarke, Some Reflections on that Part of a Book Called Amyntor, or, The Defense of Milton’s Life, which Relates to the Writings of the Primitive Fathers and the Canon of the New Testament: In a Letter to a Friend (London, 1699); John Richardson, The Canon of the New Testament Vindicated: In Answer to the Objections of J. T. in his Amyntor (London, 1700); and Stephen Nye, An Historical Account and Defense of the Canon of the New Testament: In Answer to Amyntor (London, 1700). For a similar reaction among Smith’s contemporaries, see Archibald Alexander, The Canon of the Old and New Testament Ascertained; or, The Bible Complete, Without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions (Princeton, NJ, 1826).
56. Joseph Smith to Colesville Saints, 2 Dec. 1830, Newel Knight Journal, 201, ca. 1846, in private possession (EMD 1:20-21). On 6 November 1830, Niles’ Weekly Register reported Bolivar’s revolt against the Bogota government of Columbia: “There has also been another revolution in Columbia—severe and bloody battles had been fought, and Bolivar was again at the head of the army, to rule the country by the sword” (p. 170; also pp. 174-75). See also the Wayne Sentinel, 5 Nov. 1830.
58. Nephi’s reference to the punishment of those who “die in their wickedness” alludes to John 8:21, a popular anti-Universalist passage already discussed in connection with Abinadi (Mosiah 15:26-27) and Alma (Alma 12:16) (see chapters 12 and 14).
59. See, e.g., H. H. Rowley, The Servant of the Lord and Other Essays on the Old Testament (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), 61-88; Christopher R. North, The Suffering Servant in Deutero-Isaiah: An Historical and Critical Study (London: Oxford University Press, 1948), 207-19; and Adolph Neubauer, Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpretations, vol. 2 (New York: Hermon Press, 1969).
61. See, e.g., E. Smith, View of the Hebrews, 237-38; John McDonald, Isaiah Message to the American Nation. Chapter XVIII with Notes Critical and Explanatory, a Remarkable Prophecy Respecting to Restoration of the Jews … (Philadelphia, 1824).
62. Nephi’s method of quoting complete chapters from the Bible, Isaiah 48 and 49, followed by explication and exhortation was a familiar pattern to nineteenth-century Methodists. Instructions for Sunday worship included: “Let the morning service consist of singing, prayer, the reading of a chapter out of the Old Testament, and another out of the New, and preaching. … Let the afternoon service consist of singing, prayer, the reading of one or two chapters out of the Bible, and preaching” (The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church [New York, 1828], 70-71). It was a pattern that Smith’s Church of Christ observed initially but would apparently abandon in Ohio (see Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1844 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 1, 3).