Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
by Dan Vogel
Hyrum Smith left Manchester immediately after being commanded to do so, but his father received a similar command1 and was slow to respond. As a result, he found his creditors soon upon him. On behalf of the estate of the recently deceased Lemuel Durfee Sr., Justice Nathan Pierce issued an execution order on 7 May 1830 for Constable Sylvester Southworth to collect $37.50 plus interest and legal fees from Joseph Sr. and Abraham Fish. The two men struggled to satisfy this debt and were not able to do so until about 28 August.2 Despite this warning of things to come, Joseph Sr. would learn that he should have taken his prophet son’s revelations more seriously.
Lucy reports that when Joseph and Emma arrived in Manchester, they remained a short time and then went to stay with Calvin and Sophronia Stoddard in nearby Macedon where Joseph began holding meetings and preaching.3 In the course of the week, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and others from Fayette arrived to prepare for their mission to the Missouri frontier. This was Parley Pratt’s first time to see the Mormon prophet: “He received me with a hearty welcome, and with that frank and kind manner so universal with him in after years,” he recalled.4 The following Sunday, probably 10 October 1830, a meeting was held in the Smith cabin, which attracted a large crowd of people. Pratt said that Smith invited him to preach, which he did, “and afterwards listened with interest to a discourse from his [Smith’s] own mouth, filled with intelligence and wisdom.”5
The meeting was attended by Manchester resident Ezra Thayre, who had reluctantly gone to hear the preaching the previous Sunday at the Smith cabin, where he received a spiritual witness during Hyrum’s sermon. In the ensuing week, Thayre read the Book of Mormon, received a remarkable dream, and began proclaiming the Mormon gospel to his neighbors. In an 1862 reminiscence, Thayre recalled his conversation with Joseph Smith: “I told him … I knew the book [of Mormon] was true. He then asked me what hindered me from going into the water. … I said, I am ready and willing at any time. Then we started to the water, which was four or five miles off.”6 They were accompanied by Pratt, who baptized Thayre; Northrop Sweet, who had married Martin Harris’s niece; and Keziah (Pearce) Cowdery, Oliver’s mother. Shortly afterward, Thayre recalled that he “and Northrop Sweet were both confirmed by Joseph, and Northrop had the Spirit, but I did not. Joseph said to me, you will not receive the Spirit now, but you will soon.”7
According to Pratt, seven people were baptized on this occasion.8 Among the four unidentified individuals were perhaps Dolly Proper and her husband, George. Lorenzo Saunders said, “I saw [Oliver Cowdery] baptize Dolly Proper the homeliest old lady I ever saw. She was tall and they compared her to a Barlow Jack Knife. She had long arms and fingers.”9 Another may have been Sally Risley, a widow and “cripple” whom Christopher Stafford said Smith tried to heal.10
An event recalled by David Stafford in 1833 may have occurred on this occasion. While Cowdery was “officiating in performing the ordinance of baptism in a brook, William Smith … seeing a young man writing down what was said on a piece of board, was quite offended and attempted to take it from him, kicked at him and clinched for a scuffle.”11 Nineteen-year-old William may have reacted to harassment from a group of peers, among whom was nineteen-year-old Lorenzo Saunders, who later confessed: “Us boys used to take a log chain and wrapped it across the old house (where Smith’s lived) when Joseph and [Samuel] Harrison was preaching and tell them that [it] was the chain that was going to bind the devil.”12
Neither Joseph Smith nor Parley Pratt complained of disturbances during their sermons, but the following anecdote fits into the context of the October baptisms and may be a continuation of David Stafford’s observation about the young man writing Cowdery’s words on a board: “About two months after the church was organized baptismal services were being held a short distance from Smith’s home, each one of the disciples being led into a small brook and, after being plunged beneath the water, the convert was told that he was now white as snow. After witnessing the operation for a while several young men bent on mischief proceeded to Smith’s home and procured a pail of whitewash, and going to the hen house baptized the hens in the pail, and on leaving hung a card on the door stating that ‘all are now white as snow.’”13 The story shows the kind of obstructions the members faced from their neighbors.
The October baptisms increased the church membership in Palmyra-Manchester to fifteen. There was similar growth in the Colesville area, where within weeks of Hyrum’s arrival, at least six more people were baptized.14> An 1833 historical sketch indicates that “in October, 1830,” only six months after the church’s organization, “the number of disciples had increased to between seventy and eighty.”15 While not comparable to what the “Burned Over District” witnessed in previous years, this was nevertheless a respectable conversion rate, especially for a small sect of recent birth.
Smith’s promise to Thayre proved true when, on the day following his baptism, “the Lord poured out his Spirit upon me in the most extraordinary manner.” Thayre said he came to “know that Joseph is a prophet, and I have never doubted since.”16 Thayre invited Smith to preach in his barn about three and a half miles outside of Canandaigua. He recalled that Joseph, Oliver, Parley, Ziba Peterson, and the Whitmer brothers—David, John, and Peter Jr.—“preached with great power” to a “large congregation” that overflowed the fifty-by-eighteen-foot structure.17
In mid-October, Smith told Pratt and Peterson that he had received a revelation calling them to accompany Cowdery and Whitmer to Missouri (Doctrine and Covenants 32; hereafter D&C). Perhaps concerned that Cowdery’s charisma had not been completely reigned in, Smith’s revelation instructed the men to “give heed to that which is written, and pretend to no other revelation” (v. 4). “Immediatly on receiving this revelation,” Smith reports, “preparations were made for the journey of the brethren therein designated to the boarders of the Lamanites and a copy of the revelation was given them.”18 Lucy Smith remembered that “as soon as this revelation was received, Emma Smith, and several other sisters, began to make arrangements to furnish those who were set apart for this mission, with the necessary clothing, which was no easy task, as the most of it had to be manufactured out of the raw material.” She also remarked that “Emma’s health at this time was quite delicate” but that she labored without concern until finally “she brought upon herself a heavy fit of sickness, which lasted four weeks.”19
Prior to departing, Cowdery, Pratt, Peterson, and Whitmer signed a “Missionaries Covenant,” witnessed by Joseph Smith and David Whitmer on 17 October. The covenant outlined two objectives for the mission: to preach to the Lamanites and to “rear up a pillar as a witness where the Temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New-Jerusalem.” The missionaries knew that their assignment spelled trouble, as they expressed a need for “prayer and supplication, for our … prosperity, and our deliverance from bonds, and imprisonments, and whatsoever may come upon us, with all patience and faith.”20 The language alludes to the mission of the four sons of Mosiah who converted many of the Lamanites despite initial persecution and imprisonment.21 Not long after signing the covenant, perhaps the same day, the missionaries left on their long journey to the Missouri frontier. By 30 October, they reached Kirtland, Ohio, where Pratt introduced Cowdery and the others to Sidney Rigdon, a Campbellite preacher known to Pratt.22
Meanwhile, Smith returned to Fayette, apparently accompanied by Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet, who would be the subjects of a revelation received at the Whitmer home in late October (D&C 33). The two men were called to declare the gospel to “a crooked and perverse generation” (v. 2) before the world’s end. “It is the eleventh hour,” the revelation confirmed, “and the last time that I shall call laborers into my vineyard” (v. 3). God explains that his “vineyard has become corrupted every whit and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds” (v. 4). God declares: “And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this church have I established and called forth out of the wilderness” (v. 5). This reference to the “church in the wilderness” was a metaphor that had inspired both Puritans and Seekers with imagery derived from the Old Testament: “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness … fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” (Song of Solomon 3:6, 5:10) and the New: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (Rev. 12:6).
Although both Puritans and Seekers used the symbol, they gave it different interpretations.23 Roger Williams, a Seeker, argued that the Bible referred to a church that would be in the wilderness of apostasy, not in the wilderness of America. He debated this point with John Cotton.24 The “church and ministry of Christ Jesus” had been “put to flight,” he reasoned, and had “retired into the Wilderness of Desolation.”25 Williams looked forward to the day when the church could come “out of the Babylonian apostasy and wilderness.”26
This idea would figure prominently in Smith’s thinking in years to come. For instance, while revising Revelation 12 in 1832, he would identify the woman in the wilderness as “the church of God” and would change the reference from 1,260 days to “years” (cf. Rev. 12:5, 7). A December 1832 revelation explained that the “whore, even Babylon,” drove the ancient “church into the wilderness” (D&C 86:3). While revising his March 1829 revelation for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Smith would delete reference to a “reformation” and replace it with the announcement that Mormonism was “the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners [Song 6:10]” (D&C 5:14; cf. Book of Commandments 4:5). At the dedication of the Kirtland temple on 27 March 1836, Smith would pray that “the church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 109:73).
The revelation to Thayre and Sweet closed with a statement of the imminence of Jesus’ return: “Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly” (vv. 17-18; cf. Matt. 25:4, 7).
Smith returned to dictating his revision of the Bible on 21 October (Moses 5:43b-51) with John Whitmer as scribe.27 Revising Genesis 4, Smith came to Tubal Cain (v. 22), an important character in Masonic ritual,28 then to Lamech, a descendant of Cain who followed his forebear’s example by murdering a “young man” (v. 47). In Genesis 4:24, Lamech declares to his two wives: “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” Following verse 4, Smith added three verses that emphasize the anti-Masonic theme he had detected in Cain’s murder of Abel29:
For Lamech having entered into a covenant with Satan, wherein he became Master Mahan, master of that great secret which was administered unto Cain by Satan; and Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam. Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake. For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark. (Moses 5:49-51)
Genesis does not identify the “young man” who was murdered by Lamech, but Smith names him as Irad, Lamech’s great-grandfather (Gen. 4:18). No doubt, Lamech’s slaying of Irad “for the oath’s sake” reminded those in western New York of William Morgan’s murder, commonly believed to have been the result of Masonic vengeance over Morgan’s publication of Masonic secrets.
In late October, Peter Bauder of Albany visited the Whitmers and spoke privately with Smith for “several hours.” Remembering his conversation in 1834, Bauder said “he could give me no Christian experience”—meaning no conversion experience or manifestation of saving grace operating in his life. Bauder recalled that Smith “told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family.” While Bauder regarded the Book of Mormon as “a horrid blasphemy,” he believed it “was not so wicked as another manuscript which [Smith] was then preparing for publication, which I also saw.” This was Smith’s revision of the Bible. “He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it.”30
About this time, having been baptized on 19 September 1830 by his brother Parley, nineteen-year-old Orson Pratt journeyed from Canaan, New York, to meet Smith and the Book of Mormon witnesses in Fayette.31 On 4 November, at Orson’s request, Smith dictated a revelation that called Pratt to the ministry (D&C 34). Remembering this in 1858, Pratt explained that Smith “retired into the chamber of old Father Whitmer … and I accompanied him into the chamber, for he had told me that it was my privilege to have the word of the Lord.”32 James R. B. Vancleave interviewed Orson Pratt in 1878 and reported that “Joseph … asked Pratt and John Whitmer to go upstairs with him, and on arriving there Joseph produced a small stone called a seer stone, and putting it into a hat … asked Elder P[ratt]. to write as he would speak, but being too young and timid and feeling his unworthiness he asked whether Bro. John W[hitmer]. could not write it, and the Prophet said that he could: Then came the revelation.”33 In this revelation, God calls the yet unordained Pratt to “preach my gospel” and, like John the Baptist, “cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation, preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming. For behold, … the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory” (D&C 34:5, 6-7). After alluding to various signs of the last days, the revelation commands Pratt to “prophesy, and it shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost” (v. 10).
Back in Manchester, the Smiths’ creditors had grown uneasy. Lucy Smith recalled—incompletely—that “Hyrum had not been long absent when the neighbors called one after another and enquired where Hyrum was. … I told each one that he was in Colesville. I was much concerned to see the remarkably unusually inquisitive disposition which [the] people manifested and wondered greatly what the cause [was].”34 Lucy knew that Hyrum had left Manchester without paying his debts and that he had narrowly escaped being arrested, so this feigned ignorance is disingenuous.
Undoubtedly, Hyrum’s removal gave his father’s creditors some concern, as well. Lucy said that one morning, probably in early November,35 as she was preparing a late breakfast, a Quaker gentleman called requesting an interview with her husband. As Lucy remembered the conversation,36 the man began by stating that he had come to collect payment on a promissory note Joseph Sr. had written for $14, which the man had purchased from another individual probably for less than its face value. Joseph Sr. questioned the well-to-do Quaker’s motive since he obviously was not in need of money. Nevertheless, the Quaker pressed for payment. When Joseph Sr. offered him $6 and promised to pay the balance later, the Quaker responded: “No, I will not wait one hour; and if thou dost not pay me immediately, thou shalt go forthwith to the jail, unless … thou wilt burn up those Books of Mormon.” “That I shall not do,” Joseph Sr. insisted. The Quaker snarled back, “Then, thou shalt go to jail.”
Lucy took a string of gold beads from around her neck and interrupted: “Sir, … these beads are the full value of the remainder of the debt. I beseech you to take them, and give up the note.” “No, I will not,” the Quaker insisted. “Thou must pay the money, or thy husband shall go straightway to jail.” “Now, here, sir, just look at yourself,” Lucy exclaimed. “You have come here to distress me, by taking my husband to jail; and you think, by this, that you will compel us to deny the work of God, and destroy a book which was translated by the gift and power of God. But, sir, we shall not burn the Book of Mormon, nor deny the inspiration of the Almighty.”
The Quaker stepped to the door and called for the constable who was waiting in a wagon. The constable placed his hand on Joseph Sr.’s shoulder and said, “You are my prisoner.” Lucy begged them to allow her some time to get someone to stand in for her husband, but the constable refused. She asked if she could feed her husband and was refused, although the constable took Joseph Sr. to the wagon and then returned to eat the meal she had prepared for her husband. Shortly, the two men drove off with their prisoner headed for the Canandaigua jail. Lucy’s older children being away from home, she was left alone with nine-year-old Lucy.37
The next morning, Mother Smith says, she walked to Palmyra Village where she met Abner Lackey, a successful merchant with extensive land holdings. She reports that Lackey “went without delay to the magistrate’s office, and had my papers prepared, so that I could get my husband out of the prison cell, although he would still be confined in the jail yard.”38 Exactly how this was accomplished is unclear. Perhaps Lackey paid Smith’s debt and had the transaction notarized.39 This would not revoke the thirty-day sentence, but it may have earned Joseph Sr. some leniency. However, Joseph Sr. would spend several days in the “dungeon” before Lucy could get the papers to Canandaigua.
While Lucy describes her husband’s arrest and incarceration in vivid detail, she probably errs on the timing of the event. Hyrum may have left Manchester the day after Joseph and Emma arrived, which would have been in early October 1830, but it is doubtful that Joseph Sr. was arrested the next day as Lucy claims. An early November date is more probable. This becomes clear as one follows the chronology of subsequent events.40
After returning from her interview with Lackey in Palmyra, Lucy says, a “pert young gentleman” came asking about Hyrum. He had been sent by Alexander McIntyre, her family’s physician, to collect a small debt. Lucy said it would be paid in kind (corn and beans) the following day. True to her word, Lucy hired a man to transport the produce to McIntyre’s office the next day. When the man returned, he reported that the clerk had agreed to erase Hyrum’s debt. Having resolved the matter with McIntyre, or so Lucy believed, it was now too late in the day to start for Canandaigua.
That night as she sat in the mostly empty cabin contemplating her family’s afflictions, she was startled by a knock at the door. A man entered and began pressing her about Hyrum’s whereabouts. A second man entered, and the first said: “Mrs. Smith says her son is not at home.” Speaking to Lucy, the second man said: “He is at home, for your neighbors have seen him here to-day.” “Then, sir,” Lucy replied, “they have seen what I have not.”
It is unlikely that Hyrum returned to Manchester after moving to Colesville. The claim may have been a pretext to search the Smith cabin for property, although someone may have also seen the hired hand Lucy had engaged to carry produce to the physician’s office and mistaken him for Hyrum.
“We have a search warrant,” one of the men told Lucy, “and, if you do not give him up, we shall be under the necessity of taking whatever we find that belongs to him.” Lucy told them there was some corn upstairs but that she had already paid Hyrum’s debt. This was disputed, and when two more men entered the cabin, they were told to take the corn. As the men made their way upstairs, Lucy peered out the window and saw a crowd of men, “some on foot, some on horseback, and the rest in wagons.” Fearing for her life, she knelt in prayer asking God to protect her and little Lucy. Instantly, William, who had been gone several days on business, burst into the house exclaiming: “Mother, in the name of God, what is this host of men doing here? Are they robbing or murdering? What are they about?” When Lucy told him their intentions, William grabbed a handspike, ran upstairs, and drove the men from the house. Outside, William swung at the crowd, shouting: “Away from here, you cut-throats, instantly, or I will be the death of every one of you.” The crowd dispersed into the cold night.
Lucy says that shortly after midnight, Calvin and Sophronia Stoddard called on her, having grown increasingly concerned about her being alone, and that within an hour, Samuel, who had been on a third mission to Livonia, New York, arrived. In fact, Samuel may have been home when the collectors arrived. A 2 December letter from Joseph Jr. to Hyrum implies that he was present during the execution of the warrant: “McIntyre heard that you were in Manchester and he got a warrant and went to your father’s to distress the family but [Samuel] Harrison overheard their talk and they said that they cared not for the debt, if they only could obtain your body.”41
Lucy referred to Hyrum’s troubles as the result of “secret combinations of his enemies” who were “combining in secret chambers to take away his life.”42 In describing the same event in a letter to Hyrum, Joseph twice warned his older brother to “beware of the Freemasons.”43 As with Levi Daggett, McIntyre was a member of the Mount Moriah Lodge of Freemasons.44
Although Samuel was tired, he visited his father in the Canandaigua jail the next morning. Samuel presented papers to the jailor and demanded his father’s release. The jailor refused because it was Sunday, but he allowed Samuel to visit his father. Joseph Sr. complained of his ill treatment by the Quaker, who had continued to pressure him to denounce the Book of Mormon. The old man likened his confinement to that of the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned for preaching the gospel (see Acts 16:19-40). Samuel remained with his father overnight and on the fifth day of his incarceration, according to Lucy, Joseph Sr. “went out into the jail yard to a cooper’s shop, where he obtained employment at coopering, and followed the same until he was released, which was thirty days.”45
Lucy said that Samuel found Joseph Sr. “confined in the same dungeon with a man committed for murder.”46> Since convicted murderers were sent to the state prison in Auburn,47 Lucy may refer to Eli Bruce, who had been sentenced to serve two years and four months in the Canandaigua jail for conspiracy to kidnap anti-Masonic writer William Morgan. Because it was generally assumed that the Masons had murdered Morgan, Lucy may have presumed that Bruce had been sentenced for murder. On 5 November 1830, Bruce, who began serving his sentence in May 1829, recorded in his diary that he had a “long talk” with the father of the Mormon prophet who, among other things, claimed to have been “commissioned by God to baptize and preach this new doctrine.” Bruce said Smith asserted that “our Bible is much abridged and deficient; that soon the Divine will is to be made known to all, as written in the new Bible, or Book of Mormon.”48
During the remainder of his confinement, according to Lucy, Joseph Sr. “preached … every Sunday, and when he was released he baptized two persons whom he had thus converted.”49 Who these two were remains a mystery.
During his visit with Joseph Sr., Samuel may have reminded his father of Joseph Jr.’s revelation to move the family to Fayette. The details of their departure are unknown, but Lucy said that Samuel succeeded in convincing his father “after much fatigue and perplexities of various kinds.”50 The Smiths located to a small unincorporated village called “the Kingdom” situated along the Seneca River between Waterloo and Seneca Falls.51 Lucy reported that she and her family were well received by the neighborhood and that her new home became a center of religious activity as people gathered nightly to sing and pray.
In mid-November, Joseph Smith received an encouraging letter from Cowdery, dated 12 November 1830, reporting the baptism of fifty-five people in northern Ohio. On their way to Missouri, the missionaries had stopped in the Kirtland-Mentor area where Parley Pratt wanted to share his new-found faith with former Campbellite acquaintances. Cowdery said that among those baptized was Sidney Rigdon, a former Campbellite minister, who “sooner or later” would visit Smith in Fayette. Concerning Rigdon’s planned visit, Cowdery wrote: “Receive him [as] if from my own bosom, for he is as I am.”52 These were fateful words, for Rigdon’s status and influence with Smith would soon surpass Cowdery’s.
Pratt had led the missionaries to a group that was well suited for their message, for Rigdon and his congregation had grown dissatisfied with Campbellism and sought a more charismatic “restitution of all things,” not unlike Joseph Sr.’s Seekerism.53 Those who were attracted to Mormonism, historian Jan Shipps has noted, “followed Alexander Campbell into the Disciples of Christ restoration and, shortly thereafter, found themselves to be the members of just one more Protestant denomination.”54 Given that the Seeker seeds had been sown by one as influential as Rigdon, it is not surprising that the Mormon missionaries’ preaching bore fruit in northern Ohio.
The success of Cowdery and the others profoundly affected the future of the newly organized church. Smith must have been elated by Cowdery’s letter, for the Ohio conversions nearly doubled the church’s membership. As one historian observed, “Rigdon’s conversion and the missionary effort which followed transformed Mormonism from a New York-based sect with about a hundred members into one which was a major threat to Protestantism in the Western Reserve.”55 Such success, seven months after publication of the Book of Mormon, must have provided Smith with great satisfaction, if not confirmation that God approved of his mission and conduct. This promising situation would soon prove to be an irresistible draw for Smith.
On 30 November, Smith dictated more of his revision of Genesis to John Whitmer (Moses 5:52-6:18).56 Continuing the account of Lamech, Smith added ten more verses to the three he had previously dictated before picking up the narrative at Seth’s birth, as found in Genesis 4:25. The verses Smith added were meant to complete Lamech’s statement: “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (Gen. 4:24), which Bible commentator Adam Clarke admitted was “inscrutable.”57 Smith’s addition explained that because Lamech had followed Cain’s path by committing murder and covenanting with Satan, “the Lord cursed Lamech … wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die” (Moses 5:52, 54). Smith describes the “works of darkness … among all the sons of men” prior to Seth’s birth and their rejection of God’s “Only Begotten Son, even him whom he declared should come in the meridian of time” (5:55-57). Consistent with the pre-Christian Christianity of the Nephites (cf. Alma 12:29; 13:22), Smith felt he had restored one of the “plain and precious” parts of Genesis excised by the abominable church: “And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached” (Moses 5:58-59).
Concerning Seth, Smith added: “And God revealed himself unto Seth, and he rebelled not, but offered an acceptable sacrifice, like unto his brother Abel” (Moses 6:3). After some additional, minor manipulations, Smith inserted a prophecy of Adam: “Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also” (v. 7)—meaning the “high priesthood” after the “order of the Son” mentioned in Alma 13.58 Following Adam’s genealogy in Genesis—Adam to Seth, Seth to Enos—Smith paused to add another anti-Masonic passage: “And a man’s hand was against his own brother, in administering death, because of secret works, seeking for power” (v. 15).
On 1 December, Smith continued (Moses 6:19-7:2), apparently with Emma as his scribe,59 at Genesis 5:12 and the genealogy of Adam. He made no changes from Cainan to Mahalaleel, but for Jared and Enoch, Smith added: “And this is the genealogy of the sons of God, with whom God, himself, conversed. And they were preachers of righteousness, and spake and prophesied, and called upon all men, everywhere, to repent” (Moses 6:21b-23). Thus, as in the Book of Mormon, Smith presented two competing genealogies: Cain’s and Seth’s. By analogy, Smith’s followers were the “sons of God” (D&C 11:30; 25:1; 34:3) who, along with the American government, the Masons were trying to destroy.
Smith’s interest in translated beings, which is expressed repeatedly in the Book of Mormon (Alma 45:18-19; 3 Ne. 1:3; 2:9; 28:12-18)60 and in one of his early revelations (D&C 7), naturally drew his attention to Genesis 5:24 where “Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” This mysterious passage provided inspiration for Smith’s largest expansion to Genesis (112 verses), one that becomes a model for the expectations of a latter-day Zion. Significantly, when using code names in the revelations in 1835, Smith adopted the name Enoch for himself (D&C 92, 96, 104). In fact, much of what Smith will describe about Enoch in expanding Genesis applied to himself. Both Enoch and Smith are opponents of Masonry, both are committed to a Zionic community, and both live in an age prior to the destruction of the entire world (Moses 6:29).
In the expansion of Genesis 5, Smith has Enoch preaching “upon the hills and the high places … and all men were offended because of him” (6:37). Reminiscent of the enthusiasm of nineteenth-century revival preachers and especially Methodist Lorenzo Dow—“Crazy Dow,” as some called him—the people refer to Enoch as “a wild man” (v. 38). Directing his preaching toward those who “deny the God of heaven” (6:43), Enoch draws on the familiar argument of design which appears in the Book of Mormon (v. 44; cf. Alma 30:44). Confronted by this reasoning, “the people trembled, and could not stand in his [Enoch’s] presence” (v. 47), much like the falling power experienced at nineteenth-century revivals.
Enoch’s teachings, in the expanded Genesis, are based on the gospel of Jesus Christ taught to Adam by God. After Adam’s expulsion from the garden, God commands him to repent and be baptized “in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, … which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men” (6:52; cf. Acts 4:10-12). Adam is forgiven of his “transgression in the Garden of Eden” (v. 53)—“hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt” (v. 54). Smith attempts here to resolve the issues of original sin and innate depravity that arise out of Paul’s theology but were not fully developed until the fourth century A.D. in the writings of Augustine.61
Adam is commanded to teach his children to repent, “or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there [cf. 1 Ne. 15:34], or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name” (v. 57). Adam’s children are to know that they “must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit [John 5:3-5], and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin. … For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:59-60; cf. 1 John 5:7-8). There is a Pauline sound to this, but the traditional view would be that one is justified by faith and sanctified by the Spirit (Rom. 3:28; 5:1; 15:16; Gal. 2:16; 3:24; 2 Thess. 2:13).
Following God’s instructions to Adam in Smith’s expansion, God baptizes Adam. It will be remembered that in the Book of Mormon, Alma baptizes himself (Mosiah 18:13-14); in this case, Adam is levitated, or “caught away by the Spirit of the Lord”—in words similar to those used by Philip in the New Testament, Acts 8:39—and is “carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water. And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man” (Moses 6:64-65; cf. Col. 2:13). In similar fashion, Adam receives the priesthood, for a voice from heaven declares: “And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity” (vv. 66-67). This is the high priesthood, described by Alma as being a prerequisite for sanctification and entrance into God’s presence.62 God finally declares to Adam: “Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons” (v. 68; cf. John 1:12). This phrase would cause Smith’s followers to identify with Adam in receiving the high priesthood and becoming sanctified and worthy of receiving Jesus at his return to earth.
The way Smith handles Genesis is not unlike how he utilizes material from the New Testament in presenting an ancient history for America. Robert M. Price sees this as a pseudepigraphic Christianization of the Old Testament. In Price’s words, Smith “created something new, an imaginary Sacred Past, the way it should have been.”63
On 1 December, Smith ordained Orson Pratt an elder.64 The next day, Pratt was sent to Colesville with a letter of introduction under the signatures of Joseph Smith and John Whitmer describing him to Hyrum Smith and Newel Knight as “another Servant and Apostle.”65 Still smarting from his troubles in Colesville, Smith’s letter refers to this obscure village as the “seat of Satan.” Nevertheless, having received word of recent conversions in the area, Smith is pleased to learn that “it also hath become the abode of our savior.” Smith predicts that Jesus’ “appearing is nigh at hand” and warns that “perilous times are at hand.” He alludes to contemporary calamities as signs of the end of time and predicts that war will soon break out in the United States. “Peace is taken from the earth in part and it will soon be in whole,” he writes, “yea destructions are at our doors and they soon will be in the houses of the wicked, and they that know not God. … Behold the prophecies of the Book of Mormon are fulfilling as fast as time can bring it about.”66 Encouraging his followers in Colesville, Smith tells them to be patient in their trials and persecutions, “for your redemption draweth nigh. … Yea, even Enoch, the seventh from Adam, beheld our day and rejoiced, and the prophets from that day forth have prophesied of the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and rejoiced at the day of rest of the Saints.”67
Smith follows with a prophecy about Zion. “The Spirit of the living God is upon me,” he declares, “therefore who will say that I shall not prophecy. The time is soon at hand that we shall have to flee whithersoever the Lord will for safety. … And he will soon gather [the elect] from the four winds of heaven, from one quarter of the earth to the other, to a place whithersoever he will.”68 Thus, missionaries would soon be encouraging believers to gather to an appointed place to escape the coming holocaust and prepare for Jesus’ advent.
The letter includes a postscript that twice warns Hyrum to “beware of the Freemasons,”69 an echo of George Washington’s caution: “Beware of secret combinations.”70 One need not assume that Joseph’s anti-Masonism was limited to Hyrum’s troubles in Palmyra, for Joseph will soon dictate a revelation accusing the Masons of conspiracy to destroy the church and the American government, the chief justification for why Smith’s followers will remove from New York to Ohio (D&C 38:12-13, 28).
Not many days after Pratt’s departure for Colesville, Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge arrive from Ohio. Lucy Smith said that while Joseph was preaching at her home in Waterloo, Rigdon and Partridge came in and sat in the congregation. When Joseph concluded his discourse, Partridge arose and began to speak. Lucy remembered that Partridge said:
he had been to Manchester, … [and] had made some inquiry of our neighbours concerning our characters, which they stated had been unimpeachable, until Joseph deceived us relative to the Book of Mormon. He [Partridge] also said, that he had walked over our farm, and observed the good order and industry, which it exhibited; and, having seen what we had sacrificed for the sake of our faith, and having heard that our veracity was not questioned upon any other point than that of our religion, he believed our testimony, and was ready to be baptized.71
Evidently, Partridge had not interviewed the Smiths’ creditors and was unaware that Joseph Sr. was then in prison. Moreover, the Smiths had lost their farm in 1825, mostly due to their inability to make the last payment and not because of persecution over their beliefs. At the time Partridge visited the Smiths’ former farm, it had been occupied and managed by Roswell Nichols for twenty-one months—two planting and harvesting seasons.
In any case, Partridge asked Smith to baptize him. Smith declined, saying: “You are now … much fatigued, brother Partridge, and you had better rest today, and be baptized tomorrow.” Partridge replied submissively, saying: “Just as brother Joseph thinks best, … I am ready at any time.”72 Lucy said that Partridge was “accordingly baptized the next day,”73 traditionally dated 11 December 1830.74 This has led some to conclude that Rigdon and Partridge arrived on 10 December.75 However, the earliest printing of a revelation Smith received for Rigdon shortly after his arrival (D&C 35) bears the date 7 December.76 Possibly, Partridge was baptized the Sunday following his arrival, 11 December, not the following day as Lucy remembered.
The revelation to Rigdon opens with a declaration that Jesus Christ is God and that believers are the “sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father” (D&C 35:2). This continues the theme he had just expressed in his revision of Genesis (Moses 6:68). The revelation touches on several points of disagreement between Rigdon and Campbellism, telling Rigdon that:
I [God] have heard thy prayers, and prepared thee for a greater work. … Behold thou wast sent forth, even as John, to prepare the way before me, and before Elijah which should come, and thou knewest it not. Thou didst baptize by water unto repentance, but they received not the Holy Ghost. But now I give unto thee a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old. … I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. … The poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand. (35:1, 3-6, 8, 15-16)
Rigdon left the Disciples of Christ because of what Campbell described as Rigdon’s belief that “supernatural gifts and miracles ought to be restored” among true believers.77 Campbell felt that such things were “confined to the apostolic age, and to only a portion of the saints who lived in that age.”78 Campbell was uncommitted on the subject of the Millennium, but Rigdon’s strict millenarian view was that Jesus would literally establish a kingdom on earth.79 Campbell opposed Rigdon’s plan to establish a communal society in Kirtland. These and other issues had caused Rigdon to withdraw his congregation from Campbellite fellowship in the spring of 1830 only months before the Mormon missionaries arrived.
The “greater work” that Rigdon would perform would be to assist Smith as his scribe in revising the Bible (D&C 35:20). With Cowdery away on his mission, Smith called Rigdon to be his new mouthpiece in place of Cowdery. In summary, the revelation told Rigdon: “Thou shalt preach my gospel and call on the holy prophets to prove his words, as they shall be given him” (v. 23).
Smith dictated a brief revelation to Partridge the same day, calling him to preach and giving him the promise of receiving, under Rigdon’s hand, “the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom” (D&C 36:2).80 The revelation states that “as many as shall come before my servants Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jun., embracing this calling and commandment, shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations” (v. 5). Within days of their meeting, Rigdon is already being linked to Smith as a top church leader, in this case one of two who had the authority to ordain elders for missions (v. 7).
On 15 December, Partridge was confirmed and then ordained an elder. Both rituals were performed by Rigdon.81 Lucy reports that the “next week after” the arrival of Rigdon and Partridge, and while they were still in Fayette, “my husband returned home from prison, bringing along with him considerable clothing, which he had earned at coopering in the jail yard.”82
Also about this time, Joseph Jr. “restored” another lost portion of Genesis, dictating to Sidney Rigdon the “Prophecy of Enoch” (Moses 7:2-8:12).83 In his history, Smith links the prophecy of Enoch with various “lost books” of the Bible, specifically the “prophecy of Enoch” mentioned in Jude 1:14-15.84
As the prophecy begins, Enoch recounts a vision he received on Mount Simeon wherein he spoke with God “face to face” and saw “the world for the space of many generations” (Moses 7:4). In the land of Canaan, Enoch saw that “the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people” (v. 8). Even at this early date, Smith associates the black race with Ham’s son Canaan (Gen. 9:18; 10:6), a view held by many of his contemporaries.85 In the same chapter, Smith connects the Canaanites with the “the seed of Cain” and states that they “were black” (v. 22). It is important to note that Smith does not associate black skin with Cain’s mark of protection as would later emerge in Mormon thinking, but sees it as a result of climate change over time.86
Enoch is commanded to preach repentance and baptism to “all the people, save it were the people of Canaan” (7:11, 12). This suggests that those of African descent will not be included in the Mormon gathering of Israel. Smith had good reason to announce this hands-off policy, for he was planning to establish his New Jerusalem in Missouri where slave holders were suspicious of immigrants from the non-slaveholding north.87
Enoch establishes a Zionic city where “they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (7:18). In establishing his own Zion, Smith too would introduce a common stock plan for participants in what he would call the “Order of Enoch.”88 Similar to the expectation for the latter-day Zion, “the Lord came and dwelt with [Enoch’s] people” (v. 16). Outside of Enoch’s Zion, the world is engulfed in “wars and bloodshed” and “there went forth a curse upon all people that fought against God” (vv. 15, 16). Enoch sees in vision that “Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven” (v. 21), changing Genesis 5:24 about Enoch’s translation to apply to the general population: “And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, ZION IS FLED” (Moses 7:69).
Smith’s followers would see Enoch’s city as analogous to their own situation. They believed that if they established Zion, they would escape destruction and save themselves as a community. They would be required to live the Zionic ideal wherein all would be of one mind and one heart, consecrating their property to the poor and preparing for Jesus’ thousand-year reign. Rather than waiting for the rapture most Protestants anticipated, wherein scattered individuals would rise up in the air to meet Jesus, Smith saw the entire New Jerusalem ascending into heaven (see Ether 13).89
God tells Enoch about the latter-day Zion as well: “As I [God] live, even so will I come in the last days … but before that day … great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve” (7:60-61). To preserve his people, God will “gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, … and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem” (v. 62). Evidently, Smith included Enoch’s city among the “ten thousand of his saints” mentioned in Jude 1:14 who will accompany Jesus at his return, for God tells Enoch that the two Zions will meet: “Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom. … There shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, … and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest” (7:63-64).
After writing the “Prophecy of Enoch,” according to John Whitmer, “Joseph and Sidney went to the several churches preaching and prophesying wherever they went.”90 In late December, the two men visited Canandaigua where, probably at Ezra Thayre’s home, God tells Smith that he should not continue the Bible revision “until ye shall go to the Ohio” (D&C 37:1).91 More significantly, the revelation commands the entire membership of the church to “assemble together at the Ohio” (v. 3). This would, of course, be temporary because God had already said that the location of the New Jerusalem would be “on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9).
The revelation outlined a stop in Colesville and elsewhere before continuing on to Ohio. Smith and Rigdon were told not to leave New York “until ye have preached my gospel in those parts, and have strengthened up the church whithersoever it is found, and more especially at Colesville” (D&C 37:2). Before leaving Canandaigua, Rigdon fulfilled an appointment that Thayer had arranged and preached a sermon at the Canandaigua courthouse.92 It will be remembered that Thayre had provided his barn for a church meeting the previous fall. After that meeting, representatives of the Methodist church had evidently indicated to Thayre that they would like to have elders visit their church. “I went down to engage a place for them to preach in,” Thayre recalled in 1862. “They had promised that we should meet in the Methodist Meeting house, but the Trustees would not agree, so I engaged the Court House.” Thayre said that Rigdon preached for more than an hour and a half. During the meeting, as Thayre and others stood listening just outside the door, they saw a strange display of lights in the night sky and again while returning to Thayre’s home. Smith said this was “one of the signs of the coming of the Son of man.”93
During this visit, Smith met the editor of Canandaigua’s anti-Masonic Ontario Phoenix, William W. Phelps, who would later join the church. The meeting occurred on 24 December and was probably at Thayre’s home.94 Phelps met Rigdon and spoke with him for “ten hours.” According to Phelps, Rigdon “declared” that the Book of Mormon “was true” and that “he knew it by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was again given to man in preparation for the millennium.” The former Campbellite “appeared to be a man of talents, and sincere in his profession,” Phelps observed.95
In obedience to the revelation to preach throughout upstate New York, Rigdon next gave a public sermon in Palmyra. Having failed to obtain the use of any of the local churches, Martin Harris finally secured the hall of the Young Men’s Library Society on the third floor of Exchange Row on Main Street. A small audience assembled, among whom were Lorenzo Saunders and Pomeroy Tucker. “I saw Rigdon in 1830 preach with the Bible in one hand and the Book of Mormon in the other,” Saunders recalled in 1884. “He said the Bible was now fulfilled and done away and the Book of Mormon was to take its place.”96
Tucker gave a more detailed account in 1867, remembering that Rigdon’s discourse had been based on 1 Nephi 13:40—the idea being that the Book of Mormon “establish[es] the truth” of the Bible, not that it replaces it. Tucker said that Rigdon quoted various passages from the Book of Mormon and the Bible to “establish the theory that the Book of Mormon and the old Bible were one in inspiration and importance, and that the ‘precious things’ now revealed had for wise purposes been withheld from the [Bible].” Like Saunders, Tucker remembered that Rigdon held one book in each hand, but that he brought them together to demonstrate that “they were both equally the Word of God; that neither was perfect without the other; and that they were inseparably necessary to complete the everlasting gospel of the Savior Jesus Christ.” Assessing Rigdon’s presentation, Tucker said: “Though evidencing some talent and ingenuity in its matter and manner, and delivered with startling boldness and seeming sincerity, the performance was in the main an unintelligible jumble of quotations, assertions, and obscurities, which was received by the audience as shockingly blasphemous, as it was painful to hear.”97 Rigdon could not expect to be invited back.
Before the prophet and his mouthpiece visited Colesville, they had to first travel to Fayette for the church’s third conference, held at Peter Whitmer’s home on Sunday, 2 January 1831. Little is known of the proceedings because “no minutes [were] taken.”98 However, Smith received another revelation (D&C 38) reiterating the need to move to Ohio.99 Recalling this, John Whitmer said: “After transacting the necessary business, Joseph the Seer addressed the congregation, and exhorted them to stand fast, looking forward considering the end of their salvation. The solemnities of eternity rested on the congregation, and having previously received a revelation to go to Ohio [D&C 37], they desired to know somewhat more concerning this matter. Therefore the Seer enquired of the Lord in the presence of the whole congregation, and thus came the word of the Lord.”100
The revelation begins with Jesus declaring that he is God, creator of the universe, “the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (D&C 38:1-3). Reflecting material contained in the “Prophecy of Enoch,” Jesus reveals that he “is the same that have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom … even as many as have believed in my name” (v. 4). Alluding to the wicked who were destroyed in the Flood and are being “kept in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the earth,” Jesus warns that “even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts, and wo, wo, wo, is their doom” (vv. 5-6; cf. Moses 7:21, 27, 38, 57). In other words, the revelation likened Smith’s situation to that of Enoch in preparing Zion: the inhabitants of the earth are being divided between those who will be destroyed and those who will be translated into heaven.
The revelation continues, turning suddenly anti-Masonic: “Behold the enemy is combined. And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not. … And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives” (38:12-13, 28). The wording is similar to what Lucy Smith remembered of Joseph’s warning to Hyrum to flee Manchester because his “enemies were combining in secret chambers to take away his life.”101 The belief that Masons secretly plotted the destruction of Mormons grew out of Moroni’s declaration that “secret combinations” had murdered the prophets and saints of God (Ether 8:22, 25). After moving to Kirtland, Ohio, situated in strongly anti-Masonic Geauga County, Smith would issue a revelation instructing his converts in the east to “flee to the west … in consequence of that which is coming on the earth, and of secret combinations” (D&C 42:64).
The revelation received at the conference gives another incentive to flee to Ohio by predicting that war is about to break out in the United States: “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. … Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio” (38:29). Later, in March 1831, Smith will reiterate this prediction, stating that “not many years hence ye shall hear of wars in your own lands” and that “every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety” (D&C 45:63, 68).
As enticement for the move, Jesus promises the New York saints “greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh; and … ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever” (D&C 38:18-20). Rigdon interpreted the “land of promise” to include Kirtland and its vicinity. Ohio convert Ezra Booth wrote in December 1831 that while in New York, Rigdon had received visions of “Kirtland with the surrounding country, consecrated as the promised land, and the churches in the state of N.Y. expected to receive their everlasting inheritance in the state of Ohio.” Confirming Booth’s account is a letter Rigdon wrote on 4 January 1831 to the believers in Ohio: “You are living on the land of promise, and that there is the place of gathering, and from that place to the Pacific Ocean, God has dedicated to himself, not only in time, but through eternity, and he has given it to us and our children … Therefore, be it known to you, brethren, that you are dwelling on your eternal inheritance … for our God hath in visions shown it unto me.”102
Even though Smith’s revelations had located the New Jerusalem in Missouri, Rigdon saw the “land of promise” as encompassing the entire vast territory west of New York. While preaching in the Waterloo courthouse prior to leaving New York in late January, Rigdon would declare that Kirtland was situated “just within the east bounds of this new land of promise, which extends from thence to the Pacific Ocean, embracing a territory of 1500 miles in extent, from north to south.”103 Clearly, Rigdon did not plan to abandon his home in northern Ohio. As it turned out, persecution would drive him from his “eternal inheritance” in 1838 so that he would have to move first to Missouri, then to Illinois the following year. Despite his station in the church, his visions, Booth said in 1831, “are considered by the church as entitled to no credit, and laid aside as mere rubbish.”104
Smith’s revelation addressed the distribution of wealth when they arrived in Ohio: “And let every man esteem his brother as himself. … I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (38:24, 27). “Certain men,” later identified as bishops, will “look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer. … And this shall be their work, to govern the affairs of the property of this church. And they that have farms that cannot be sold, let them be left or rented as seemeth them good” (vv. 34-37). This part of the revelation gave members cause for concern. John Whitmer reported that immediately following this revelation, “there were some divisions among the congregation, some would not receive the above as the word of the Lord: but that Joseph had invented it himself to deceive the people that in the end he might get gain.”105 An anonymous observer writing from Waterloo on 26 January 1831 said that Smith and his followers “recently received a written command from God, through Jo Smith, junior, to repair with all convenient speed [to Ohio] after selling off the[ir] property. This command was at first resisted by such as had property, … but after a night of fasting, prayer and trial, they all consented to obey the holy messenger.”106 The Whitmers were among the first to obey the command, agreeing to sell their beloved 100-acre farm to Charles Stuart for $2,200 shortly after Smith’s revelation.107
When the members arrive in Ohio, God promises, they will be rewarded with two blessings (D&C 38:32): the “law,” which turns out, as revealed 9 February 1831, to be the law of consecration requiring members to give all surplus property to the church for care of the poor and to build the New Jerusalem (D&C 42); and an “endow[ment] with power from on high,” which will be fulfilled when the high priesthood is introduced in June 1831. Similar to Jesus’ instructions to his apostles to remain in Jerusalem “until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), the endowment of high priesthood was to precede the effort to take the gospel to the world (D&C 38:33, 38). Thus, from 1831 to 1838, Kirtland would be the center of the church’s missionary program and gathering.
Following the conference, Smith and his followers began making preparations for the move, but an immediate departure was impossible because Smith and Rigdon had yet to visit the church at Colesville (D&C 37:2). Instead, Smith received a command to send John Whitmer to Kirtland with the manuscript of the revelations which, as Whitmer later recalled, would “comfort and strengthen my brethren in that Land.”108 In a letter of introduction dated 4 January, Rigdon instructed the Ohio believers to receive Whitmer, “for he is a brother greatly beloved, and an apostle of this church.”109
Smith was still in Fayette on 5 January when he received a revelation for James Covill (D&C 39), a Baptist minister from Chautaugua County, New York. Smith said that prior to receiving the revelation, Covill had “covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any command that the Lord would give through me as his servant.”110 In the revelation, Jesus reprimands Covill—“for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride and the cares of the world” (v. 9)—and commands him to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (v. 10). Despite the revelation’s statement that Covill’s “heart is now right before me” (v. 8), the man who had been a minister forty years was offended and “returned to his former principles and people.”111
Covill’s apostasy caused some concern among Smith’s followers because they believed that God should have known that Covill would not obey. For instance, how could an inspired revelation declare that the minister’s heart was right before God when it was not? There was enough concern that Smith issued another revelation the next day, 6 January. In this, the last of Smith’s New York revelations, God declares that Covill’s “heart … was right before me, for he covenanted with me that he would obey my word. And he received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word. Wherefore he broke my covenant, and it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good” (D&C 40:1-3). Thus, Smith drew upon Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mark 4:13-20) to extricate himself from this difficulty. Even so, the revelation does not fully explain Covill’s behavior, for it is unlikely that he would have promised to follow Smith if he had harbored fear of persecution or cared about the world’s opinion. Smith shifts responsibility for the revelation’s failure from himself to Covill. A more likely explanation is that Covill saw that Smith was attempting a “cold reading” and, knowing that he had not rejected Jesus “many times,” concluded that Smith’s revelations were not inspired. He may have also found it odd that he would need to be rebaptized.112
Smith probably remained in Fayette for the marriage of his eighteen-year-old sister, Katharine, to the unbaptized Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury on 8 January113 and to see David Whitmer marry Julia Ann Jolly the following day.114 Then Smith and Rigdon would have been free to visit Colesville. While Smith’s history fails to mention the visit, Joseph Knight and John Whitmer said that it occurred sometime after the 2 January 1831 conference.115
Knight said that Smith and Rigdon stayed at his home “several days,” during which Rigdon preached “several times.” One resident heard Rigdon preach in Knight’s barn and said that “he was a decent speaker as preachers averaged in those days.”116 Sally Knight’s recently baptized sister, Emily, remembered that Rigdon preached before a “numerous congregation” on the text of Galatians 3:1—“O, foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?”—which afterward “was acknowledged by all to be the best sermon ever preached in that vicinity.”117 John Whitmer said that during one sermon, Rigdon “spoke with boldness … but they laughed him to scorn.” In response, out of righteous indignation, Rigdon bellowed: “O ye heavens give ear and ye angels attend, I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ that this people is sealed up to everlasting destruction.”118
Emily remembered that Rigdon remained in Colesville “several days, seeming to have special business with Joseph Smith and the leaders of the new Mormon church.”119 This “special business” came in the form of “secret meetings” which Rigdon would subsequently acknowledge. Recalling this period in 1844, Rigdon denied that they had anything to do “with designs against the government, and with laying plans to get money, &c.” Nevertheless, he admitted that “we talked such big things that men could not bear them. … God had great things to say for the salvation of the world, which, if they had been told to the public, would have brought persecution upon us unto death; so we were obliged to retire to our secret chambers, and commune ourselves with God.”120
Despite Rigdon’s denials, there were aspects of Smith’s gospel that combined politics with religion. Rigdon was converted by missionaries on their way to preach to the Indians and locate a gathering place. Moreover, the Book of Mormon predicted the destruction of the United States with help from the Indians.121 By asking followers to sell their farms and place their money into the “common fund,” it became clear that Smith would be more than a spiritual leader.122 While downplaying the perceived threat to civil government in his 1844 sermon, Rigdon at the same time rejected the Jeffersonian doctrine of separation of church and state:
I discover one thing, mankind have labored under one universal mistake about this, viz: Salvation was distinct from government; i.e.; that I can build a church without government, and that thing have power to save me. When God sets up a system of salvation, he sets up a system of a government; when I speak of government I mean what I say; I mean a government that shall rule over temporal and spiritual affairs.123
Joseph Knight said that after “several days … Joseph and Sidney went down to Harmony to settle some business.”124 Knowing that he was soon to move to Ohio, it was probably on this occasion that Smith rented his home to Joseph McKune Jr., who had recently sold his land to the Skinners. In 1833, Smith would sell the property to McKune.125 It was probably also at this time that Smith would arrange to pay the $190.95 outstanding mortgage he owed to Noble & Company, which according to Susquehanna County records was satisfied sometime before 3 June 1831.126
Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in Colesville because Rigdon had angered those who had publicly questioned him concerning his statements. “He was too smart for them,” Joseph Knight recalled, “therefore they wanted to trouble him.”127 Learning of the mob’s plan to “take Joseph and Sidney and me,” Knight sent one of his sons to warn the leaders of the danger awaiting them. Instead of returning to Colesville as planned, Smith and Rigdon first headed west towards Binghamton, a major town in the southwestern part of Broome County, and then continued on to Fayette. That evening, Knight, his wife, and daughter took what they could carry and slipped out of Colesville despite the mob’s surveillance of the bridge over which the Knights would normally cross.128 Presumably, they were able to ford the river at a less convenient spot, perhaps on the ice, and then headed for Fayette.
About this time, mid-January, Smith received a letter from John Whitmer, who had arrived in Kirtland sometime during the week of 9-15 January.129 Whitmer requested Smith’s immediate presence.130 Rigdon and Partridge were already on their way, leaving from Waterloo, where Rigdon took the opportunity to preach at the courthouse on the morning of 24 January. According to a resident of Waterloo, Rigdon eloquently “depicted in strong language, the want of ‘charity and brotherly love’ among the prevailing sects and denominations of professing Christians. … After denouncing dreadful vengeance on the whole state of New-York, and this village in particular, and recommending to all such as wished to flee from ‘the wrath to come,’ to follow him beyond the ‘western waters,’ he took his leave.”131
Rigdon and his traveling companion caught a stage for Kirtland and arrived there on 1 February, three days before Smith’s arrival.132 The individual from Waterloo who observed and commented on these developments wrote on 26 January that “The Prophet, Spouse, and whole ‘holy family’ (as they style themselves,) will follow Rigdon, so soon as their deluded or hypocritical followers, shall be able to dispose of what little real property they possess in this region.”133 Smith probably left on 27 January. According to Lucy Smith, Joseph and company stopped and “preached at our house on Seneca River; and, on their way, they preached at the house of Calvin Stoddard [in Palmyra], and likewise at the house of Preserved Harris [also in Palmyra]. At each of these places, they baptized several individuals into the Church.”134 It is uncertain who was baptized in Fayette or Waterloo at this time, but Calvin, Sophronia, and Preserved were probably baptized in Palmyra prior to Smith’s leaving New York.135
One may only imagine the thoughts that swirled through Smith’s head as he left the town of his first spiritual adventures. Sitting in a sleigh driven by Joseph Knight, who had been with Smith during his treasure-seeking days, Smith perhaps reflected on how far his seer stone had taken him. What started, in part, as an attempt to prevail over the other seers in his neighborhood had developed in only eight years into a new church with more than 250 members in New York and Ohio.136 As a treasure seer, Smith had been given charge of and was responsible for just a handful of men and then only briefly, but now as the prophet of the Restoration, he was charged with the temporal and spiritual salvation of more than two hundred souls, many of whom were preparing to sell their possessions and follow him to Ohio in the spring. Another hundred or so converts in the Kirtland area anxiously awaited his arrival so they could see him for the first time. With so many people looking to him for salvation, he knew there was no room for doubts or second thoughts.
1. Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for many Generations (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 159 (see Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003], 1:426; hereafter EMD]).
2. Nathan Pierce, Docket Book (1827-30), 25, Manchester Township Office, Clifton Springs, New York (EMD 3:491-92). In an entry of 28 August 1830, Pierce noted his success in collecting both damages and legal fees from Smith and Fish. In a final entry of 13 September 1830, Durfee acknowledged payment of $41.44.
9. Lorenzo Saunders, interviewed by William H. Kelley, 17 Sept. 1884, 13 (back), E. L. Kelley Papers, Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Church) Archives, Independence, MO (EMD 2:134, n. 38). Pomeroy Tucker names George and Dolly Proper of Palmyra among Smith’s early “disciples” (Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism [New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867], 38 [EMD 3:106]). However, Tucker errs in dating Dolly’s baptism to 6 April 1830 (ibid., 59 [EMD 3:118]).
10. Christopher M. Stafford, 23 Mar. 1885, Naked Truths about Mormonism, Apr. 1888, 1 (EMD 2:195). Tucker listed “Widow Sally Risley” as one of Smith’s early followers in Manchester, NY (Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 39 [EMD 3:106]).
13. Wayne County Journal, 11 July 1907. See also the Shortsville Enterprise, 18 Mar. 1904, where John Stafford says he “knew the Smith family well, and was present at the first baptism, when old Granny Smith and Sally Rockwell were ‘dipped’ and came up ‘white as snow’” (EMD 2:120, n. 1).
14. Newel Knight reported, but did not identify, two people who were baptized on 10 October in Colesville and possibly four others on 14 October in South Bainbridge (Newel Knight, Journal [A] [ca. 1846], 23-24, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City [EMD 4:38-39]). According to the LDS church records, Ezekiel and Electa Peck of South Bainbridge were baptized in October 1830, perhaps on the last described occasion (Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 27 [Apr. 1936]: 78-79). These baptisms may have been performed in Afton Lake (see the Mehetable Doolittle statement in “Mormon Joe Smith. His Former Home Near Susquehanna,” Binghamton [New York] Daily Republican, 29 Mar. 1877 [EMD 4:339, n. 8]).
17. Ibid. Thayre’s claim that Hyrum was also present is doubtful since, according to Lucy, he had left for Colesville the day after Joseph’s arrival in Manchester, and according to Newel Knight, Hyrum was in attendance at the meetings on 4, 6, 10, and 14 October in Colesville and South Bainbridge (N. Knight, Journal [A], 23-24 [EMD 4:38-39]).
23. For a discussion of the varying interpretations of the “church in the wilderness,” including those held by Puritans, Seekers, and Mormons, see George Huntston Williams, “The Wilderness and Paradise in the History of the Church,” Church History 28 (Mar. 1959): 3-24; and Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 56-58.
25. Roger Williams, The Hireling Ministry None of Christs (London, 1652), 2. For Cotton’s differing interpretation on this point, see John Cotton, The Bloudy Tenent, Washed … Whereunto is added a Reply to Mr. Williams Answer to Mr. Cottons Letter (London, 1647), 45.
27. Old Testament Manuscript #1, Community of Christ Archives, bears the date of 21 October 1830 for this section of the Book of Moses where John Whitmer’s handwriting begins (see Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible [Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975], 27-28, 64, 68).
28. See William Morgan, Illustrations of Masonry (Rochester, NY, 1827), 71, 77. Peter Sanborn, in attempting to explain Masonry’s “real origin,” argued that “the truth may be, that the first grand arch mason, was Satan; the first secret lodge, in Eden, between him and Eve. … Cain, like Nimrod, rebelled against the priesthood and government of Adam; he, with Tubal Cain, no doubt, were masons” (P[eter]. Sanborn, Minutes of an Address Delivered Before the Anti-Masonic Convention of Reading, Mass., January 15, 1829 [Boston, 1829], 16).
30. Peter Bauder, The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ: Contrasted with That of Anti-Christ. A Brief Review of Some of the Most Interesting Circumstances, Which Have Transpired Since the Institution of the Gospel of Christ, from the Days of the Apostles (Canajoharie, NY: A. H. Calhoun [printer], 1834), 36-37 (EMD 1:17-18).
37. Samuel had left on a mission to Lavonia, New York. William and Don Carlos were possibly working for neighbors. Katharine is not listed in the 1830 census of Ontario County, taken sometime between 2 August and 20 November, which suggests that she was absent from home for some time. An entry in a judgement docket for Victor, New York, indicates that she may have been teaching school in neighboring towns. The entry is dated February-June 1829 and notes that a “Catharine Smith” had sued the trustees of Farmington school district No. 5 for unpaid wages. If this entry pertains to the daughter of Joseph and Lucy Smith, it suggests that she may have left home as early as the winter of 1828-29 to teach school (Catharine Smith vs. Trustees of Farmington School District No. 5, Feb.-June 1829, Judgment Docket, Victor, Ontario County Historical Society, Canandaigua, NY).
40. While Lucy dates the arrest to early October 1830, specifically the day after Hyrum’s departure from Manchester, there are several reasons to place this event in November. First, according to Lucy’s chronology, Joseph and Emma went to stay with the Stoddards on the same day Hyrum left Manchester, and it was on the following morning that Joseph Sr. was arrested, the house coming under siege two days later. Yet, Joseph and his entourage from Fayette are not mentioned in Lucy’s narrative, although Joseph Jr. was nearby until at least 17 October when he signed the “Missionaries Covenant” as a witness. Following Joseph Sr.’s arrest, Lucy describes herself as being home alone with her youngest child. On the night of the siege, the Stoddards visited Lucy, but Joseph and Emma are not mentioned.
Second, it seems probable that Eli Bruce’s 5 November conversation with Joseph Sr., described below, occurred near the beginning of Smith’s incarceration, prior to his release from the dungeon into the courtyard, rather than near the end.
Third, as described below, Lucy remembered that Joseph Sr. joined her in Fayette shortly after the arrival of Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge in early December 1830. If Lucy is correct that Joseph Sr. served a thirty-day sentence, then it follows that he was incarcerated in early November rather than early October (see EMD 5:446-47, 450).
44. “Return of the Mount Moriah Lodge No. 112 held in the Town of Palmyra in the County of Wayne and State of New York from June 4th AL 5827  to June 4th AL 5828 ,” Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, Chancellor Livingston Library, NY (EMD 3:452-56).
51. See Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971, 270.
52. N. Knight, Journal [C]. While 14 or 15 November 1830 is usually cited as Rigdon’s baptismal date, Cowdery puts it between 5 and 12 November. If the Painesville Telegraph was correct that it was a Monday, then it would most likely have been 8 November (Painesville Telegraph, 15 Feb. 1831).
57. In his commentary on this passage, Adam Clarke said: “This speech is very dark, and has given rise to a great variety of very strange conjectures. … I must leave the passage, I fear, among those which are inscrutable” (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … With a Commentary and Critical Notes [New York, 1811-17], s.v., Gen. 4:24).
59. Old Testament Manuscript #1 (Community of Christ Archives), which bears the date 1 December 1830 (Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 28, 65, 68-69). According to Scott Faulring, Emma’s handwriting appears in this portion of the revision (FARMS Update [Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University], Aug. 1996).
63. 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), 324; see also Melodie Charles, “The Mormon Christianizing of the Old Testament,” Sunstone 5/6 (Nov.-Dec. 1980): 35-39.
70. The Morgan Investigator, published in Batavia, New York, and edited by William W. Phelps, declared in March 1827: “BEWARE OF SECRET COMBINATIONS. These are the dying words of General George Washington. … Do not these words … point with an index that cannot be mistaken, to the society of Freemasons?” (See Ontario Phoenix, 31 Mar. 1830). Masons were quick to point out that Washington was himself a Mason and that he had warned of “combinations,” not “secret combinations.” Anti-Masons added “secret” to the president’s words to make it appear that he had been sympathetic to their cause.
74. “Journal History,” 11 Dec. 1830, LDS Church Archives; Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Andrew Historical Co., 1901-36; rpt. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1971), 1:218.
76. Ohio Star, 5 Jan. 1832, dates the revelation to 7 December 1830 (see Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants [Provo, UT: Seventy’s Mission Book Store, 1981], 51).
77. Alexander Campbell, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell Embracing A View of the Origin, Progress and Principles of the Religious Reformation Which He Advocated, ed. Robert Richardson (Philadelphia, 1868), 2:346.
78. In Joseph W. White, “The Influence of Sidney Rigdon upon the Theology of Mormonism,” M.A. thesis, University of Southern California, 1947, 127. See also Royal Humbert, ed., A Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1961), 67-70.
79. White, “Influence of Sidney Rigdon,” 129; Amos S. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio: With Biographical Sketches of the Principal Agents in Their Religious Movement (Cincinnati, 1876), 186.
85. See J. Oliver Boswell, Slavery, Segregation, and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1964); Caroline Shanks, “The Biblical Anti-slavery Argument of the Decade 1830-1840,” Journal of Negro History 15 (1931): 132-57; and Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). For a discussion and other references, see Lester E. Bush Jr., “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview,” in Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church, eds. Lester E. Bush Jr. and Armand L. Mauss (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1984), 59-60, 99-100, nn. 22 and 23.
86. See Armand L. Mauss, “Mormonism and the Negro: Faith, Folklore, and Civil Rights,” in Neither White nor Black, 13-15. In 1835, while “translating” the Egyptian papyri, Smith will explain that Cain’s lineage and “curse” were preserved through Ham’s wife, whom he names as Egyptus (Abr. 1:21-26).
87. See discussion in Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), 379-86. Despite the implications of Moses 7:11-12, the abolitionist tendencies of Joseph Smith and his early followers would eventually erupt into sharp conflict with the Missourians (see Newell G. Bringhurst, Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 15-33.
96. L. Saunders, 17 Sept. 1884, 9 (EMD 2:131). Saunders incorrectly dated the event to the summer of 1830 (see Lorenzo Saunders, Statement, 21 July 1887, in Naked Truths About Mormonism [Jan. 1888]: 2 [EMD 2:213]).
97. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 76-79 (EMD 3:122-24). In a letter to Rigdon dated 19 April 1867, Tucker states: “I heard your sermon at the hall of our Palmyra Young Men’s Association in that year ” (p. 126).
98. “The Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints Belonging to the High Council of said Church, or their successors in office, of Caldwell County Missouri; Far West: April 6, 1838,” 2, LDS Church Archives (EMD 5:351).
102. Sidney Rigdon to the Ohio Saints, 4 Jan. 1831, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 111 (EMD 5:306). The date of Rigdon’s letter is surmised from his reference to the 2 January 1831 revelation (D&C 38) as “one of the commandments, received day before yesterday.”
107. Writing on 26 January 1831, the Waterloo correspondent said that “one farm (Whitmers) was sold a few days ago for $2,300” (Palmyra Reflector [1 Feb. 1831]:  [EMD 2:244]). This was probably an agreement outlining the intent to sell. The Seneca County records indicate that the deed was transferred on 1 April 1831 for $2,200 (Deeds, Liber W, 318, Seneca County Courthouse, Waterloo, NY).
125. On 28 June 1833, Smith sold his Harmony land to McKune for $300 (original deed signed by Joseph and Emma in the LDS church archives; the deed was copied into the Susquehanna County deed books, Liber 9, 290, Susquehanna County Courthouse, Montrose, PA [see EMD 4:427]). According to Frederick G. Mather, Martin Harris came to Harmony to effect the sale with Joseph McKune Jr., but the accuracy of this statement is uncertain (see Frederick G. Mather, “The Early Days of Mormonism,” Lippincott’s Magazine [Philadelphia] 26 [Aug. 1880]: 201 [EMD 4:364]).
126. Transcript, George H. Noble & Co. vs. Joseph Smith, Jr., 26 Aug. 1830, Susquehanna County Courthouse (EMD 4:434-35). On 3 June 1831, the Court of Common Pleas at Montrose was notified that Smith’s note for $190.95 had been satisfied, and on the following day it was entered into the docket book. If Smith did not settle the debt during his December 1830 visit to the area, one might speculate that it was satisfied by one or more of the Colesville Saints before leaving that spring for Ohio.