Andrew Jenson (ed)
The Historical Record
(Salt Lake City: A.J.H.C., 1886-1890)
  • 1886: (under constr.)
  • 1887:  May (Three Witnesses)
  • 1888:  Jan. (Joseph Smith)
  • 1889: (under constr.)
  • 1890: (under constr.)

  • Transcriber's Comments

  • 1880s magazine articles


    Nos. 3-5.                                 MAY, 1887.                                 Vol. VI.

    [p. 195]


    While Joseph Smith, the Prophet, with Oliver Cowdery as scribe, were engaged in translating the Book of Mormon in Fayette, Seneca Co., N. Y. in the year 1829, they ascertained that the plates, from which they were translating, should be shown by the power of God to three special witnesses, who should bear record of the divinity of the book, etc. (See Book of Mormon, Ether, 5th Chap.)

    Almost immediately after making this discovery, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris asked the Prophet Joseph to "inquire of the Lord to know if they might not obtain of him to be these three special witnesses." At length Joseph complied with their wishes, and through the Urim and Thummim received for them a revelation, granting them the privilege conditional upon their faith. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 17.)

    "Not many days after the above commandment was given," writes Joseph Smith, "we four, viz., Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself, agreed to retire into the woods, and try to obtain, by fervent and humble prayer, the fulfilment of the promises given in the above revelation, that they should have a view of the plates, etc.

    We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer’s house, to which we retired, and having knelt down, we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises. According to previous arrangement, I commenced prayer to our heavenly father, and was followed by each of the others in succession. We did not at the first trial, however, obtain any answer or manifestation of divine favor in our behalf. We again observed the same order of prayer, each calling on and praying fervently to God in rotation, but with the same result as before. Upon this, our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he should withdraw himself from us, believing, as he expressed himself, that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for. He accordingly withdrew from us, and we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air, of exceeding brightness; and behold, an angel stood before us; in his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of; he turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discover the engravings thereon distinctly. He then addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said, 'David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps His commandments.'

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    When, immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, 'These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear.'

    "I now left David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance, fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer, that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view, at least it was again opened to me, and I once more beheld and heard the same things; whilst at the same moment, Martin Harris cried out, apparently in an ecstasy of joy, ''Tis enough; ’tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld,' and jumping up, he shouted 'Hosanna,' blessing God, and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly.

    "Having thus, through the mercy of God, obtained these glorious manifestations, it now remained for these three individuals to fulfil the commandment which they had received, viz., to bear record of these things; in order to accomplish which, they drew up and subscribed the following document: --

    "'The Testimony of Three Witnesses.

    "'Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.



    Was born in the town of Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont, in October, 1805. He was principally raised in the town of Poultney, Rutland cO., whence his father removed when Oliver was only three years old. About the year 1825, Oliver removed to the State of New York, where his elder brothers were married and settled, and some two years later his father also moved to that State. Oliver was employed as clerk in a store until the winter of 1828-29, when he taught the district school in the town of Manchester, Ontario Co., N. Y., nine miles from his father's house. There he first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, sen. (father of the Prophet), who was one of those who sent children to the school, and Oliver went to board awhile at his house. During that time the family related to him the circumstances of young Joseph having received the plates of the Book of Mormon. Oliver became deeply interested and determined

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    to find out the particulars about this wonderful event. He also prayed to the Lord to enlighten his mind, and one night, after he had retired to rest, the Lord manifested to him, that he had been told the truth in relation to the finding of the plates. He then concluded to pay Joseph Smith a visit, in order to learn more about it, which he did, and on April 5, 1829, he first met the Prophet at his temporary home in Harmony, Penn., whither he had removed because of the persecutions to which he had been subjected in the State of New York. This meeting of Joseph and Oliver was not only providential for the latter, but also for the Prophet himself, who had already been the custodian of the plates of the Book of Mormon for some time, but had been unable to proceed with the translation for the want of a scribe. In Oliver he saw the proper person to assist him in his work, and two days after his arrival, Joseph Smith "commenced to translate the Book of Mormon," with Oliver Cowdery as scribe. A few days later a revelation was given to Oliver Cowdery through Joseph Smith. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 6.)

    While engaged in the work of translating, Oliver became exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him, and in relation to his desire two revelations were given to him through the Prophet Joseph (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 8 and 9). On various other occasions he was favored with the words of the Almighty direct through the Prophet, with whom he for a number of years afterwards was very closely connected in his administrations in the Priesthood and official duties generally. (See Doc. & Cov., Sec. 7, 13, 17, 18, 23, 110, etc.)

    On May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, which they found mentioned in the record. While engaged in prayer, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and laying his hands upon them, he ordained them, saying:

    "Upon you, my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and of the Gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness."

    This heavenly messenger said that this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. He also told them that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which priesthood he said would in due time be conferred on them, when Joseph should be the first and Oliver the second Elder in the Church.

    The messenger also commanded them to go and be baptized and ordain each other, and directed that Joseph should first baptize Oliver, and then Oliver baptize Joseph. This they did, after which Joseph laid his hands on Oliver's head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood. Oliver then laid his hands on Joseph and ordained him to the same Priesthood.

    The Prophet writes:

    "Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and

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    glorious blessings from our heavenly father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation."

    Early in June Joseph Smith and wife and Oliver Cowdery removed to Fayette, Seneca Co., N.Y., where the translation of the Book of Mormon was continued and finished. John Whitmer, one of the sons of Peter Whitmer, sen., assisted considerably in the writing. It was some time during the month of June of this year (1829) that the plates were shown to the three witnesses; and not long afterwards Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter, James and John. A revelation directed principally to Oliver Cowdery was also given, making known the calling of Twelve Apostles in the last days. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 18.)

    When the Church was organized in Fayette, April 6, 1830, Oliver Cowdery was one of the original six members, and was on that occasion ordained by Joseph Smith to be the second Elder in the Church. April 11th, Oliver preached the first public discourse delivered by any Elder in this dispensation. The meeting in which this took place was held in Mr. Whitmer's house, in Fayette.

    In the following June, Oliver accompanied the Prophet to Colesville, Broome Co., where a large branch of the Church subsequently was raised up, amidst considerable persecution.

    In October, 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, jun., and Ziba Peterson were called to go on a mission to the Lamanites in the wilderness. These missionaries took leave of their friends late in October of the same year, and started on foot. After traveling for some days, they stopped and preached to an Indian nation near Buffalo, N.Y., and subsequently raised up a large branch of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio. Among the converts at the latter place was the famous Sidney Rigdon, who afterwards became so prominent in the Church. In the beginning of 1831, after a very hard and toilsome journey in the dead of winter, the missionaries finally arrived in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, about fifteen hundred miles from where they started. This was the first mission performed by the Elders of the Church in any of the States west of New York. Oliver Cowdery and P. P. Pratt commenced a prosperous mission among the Delaware Indians across the frontier line, but they were finally ordered out by the Indian Agents, accused of being disturbers of the peace. Being thus compelled to cease their work among the Lamanites for the time being, the Elders commenced preaching to the whites in Jackson county, with considerable success. In February, Elder Pratt was sent back to the East, while Elder Cowdery and his other companions remained in Missouri until the arrival of the Prophet Joseph and many other Elders from the East, July following, when Jackson County was designated as a gathering place of the Saints and dedicated for that purpose.

                                    THE  THREE  WITNESSES.                                 199

    When the Temple site was dedicated, Aug. 3, 1831, Elder Cowdery was one of the eight men present. He subsequently returned to Kirtland, Ohio, with the Prophet, where they arrived Aug. 27th. In the following November he and John Whitmer was sent back to Missouri with the revelations, which were to be printed there by W. W. Phelps.

    On the Prophet's second visit to Missouri, in 1832, Oliver Cowdery was appointed one of a committee of three to review and prepare such revelations as were deemed necessary for publication. He was also one of the High Priests appointed to stand at the head of affairs relating to the Church in Missouri.

    After the destruction of the printing press and the troubles in Jackson County, in July, 1833, Oliver Cowdery was sent as a special messenger from the Saints to Kirtland, Ohio, to confer with the First Presidency there. He arrived there in the latter part of August.

    At a council held in Kirtland, Sept. 11, 1833, he was appointed to take charge of the printing office to be established at that place, and there he subsequently recommenced the publication of the Evening and Morning Star. When the press was dedicated, Dec. 18, 1833, the Prophet records the following concerning Elder Cowdery:

    "Blessed of the Lord is Brother Oliver; nevertheless there are two evils in him that he must needs forsake, or he cannot altogether forake the buffetings of the adversary. If he forsake these evils, he shall be foregiven, and he shall be made like unto the bow which the Lord hath set in the heavens; he shall be a sign and an ensign unto the nations. Behold, he is blessed of the Lord for his constancy and steadfastness in the work of the Lord; wherefore, he shall be blessed in his generation, and they shall never be cut off, and he shall be helped out of many troubles; and if he keeps the commandments, and hearkens unto the counsel of the Lord, his rest shall be glorious."

    At the organization of the first High Council in the Church, at Kirtland, Feb. 17, 1834, Elder Cowdery was elected a member. He acted as clerk of the Council for a number of years, and subsequently acted as president of the Council. When the Prophet, with Zion's Camp, started for Missouri in May following, Oliver, together with Sidney Rigdon, was left in charge of the Church in Kirtland.

    On the evening of Nov. 29, 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery united in solemn prayer and made a covenant with the Lord, that if he would prosper them in certain things, they would give a "tenth to be bestowed upon the poor of his Church, or as he shall command." This was the first introduction of the paying of tithing among the Latter-day Saints.

    In February, 1835, the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris, chose twelve men from the Elders of the Church, to officiate as the Twelve Apostles. In blessing them and giving them instructions Oliver Cowdery took a prominent part. He was also one of the trustees of the school in Kirtland, where he studied Hebrew and other languages, in connection with the Prophet and other Elders. Sept. 14, 1835, he was appointed to act as Church Recorder.

    He was present at the dedication of the Temple in Kirtland, and took

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    a very active part in giving the assembled Elders their washings and anointings; and on April 3, 1836, he, in connection with the Prophet Joseph, saw and heard the Savior, as also Moses, Elias and Elijah the Prophet, who committed unto them the keys necessary for the furtherance of the work of the great latter-day dispensation. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 110.)

    Sept. 3, 1837, at a conference held in Kirtland, Elder Cowdery was appointed assistant counselor to the First Presidency. Some time during that year he removed to Far West, Caldwell Co.,Mo., where he acted as clerk of the High Council and Church Recorder. He was also a member of a committee appointed to select locations for the gathering of the Saints.

    On Wednesday April 11, 1838. Elder Seymour Brunson preferred the following charges against Oliver Cowdery before the High Council of Far West:

    "1st. For persecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious lawsuits against them, and thus distressing the innocent. 2nd. For seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jun., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery, etc. 3rd. For treating the Church with contempt by not attending meeting. 4th. For virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority or revelations whatever, in his temporal affairs. 5th. For selling his lands in Jackson county, contrary to the revelations. 6th. For writing and sending an insulting letter to President Thomas B. Marsh, while on the High Council, attending to the duties of his office as president of the Council, and by insulting the High Council with the contents of said letter. 7th. For leaving his calling, in which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of law. 8th. For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says. 9th. For dishonestly retaining notes, after they have been paid; and, finally, for leaving or forsaking the cause of God, and returning to the beggarly elements of the world, and neglecting his high and holy calling according to his profession."

    The following day (April 12th) the Bishop of Far West and High Council examined his case. "The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th charges were sustained. The 4th and 5th charges were rejected; and the 6th was withdrawn. Consequently he (Oliver Cowdery) was considered no longer a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    After his excommunication, Oliver Cowdery engaged in law business and practiced for some years as a lawyer in Michigan, but he never denied the truth of the Book of Mormon. On the contrary he seems to have used every opportunity to bear testimony of its divine origin. While practicing law in Michigan, a gentleman, on a certain occasion, addressed him as follows: "Mr. Cowdery, I see your name attached to this book. If you believe it to be true, why are you in Michigan?" The gentleman then read the names of the Three Witnesses and asked. "Mr. Cowdery, do you believe this book!" "No, sir," was the reply. "Very well," continued the gentleman, "but your name is attached to it, and you declare here (pointing to the book) that you saw an angel, and also the plates, from which the book purports to be translated; and now you say you don't believe it. Which time did you tell the truth?"


                                    THE  THREE  WITNESSES.                                 201

    Oliver Cowdery replied with emphasis, "My name is attached to that book, and what I there have said is true. I did see this; I know I saw it, and faith has nothing to do with it, as a perfect knowledge has swallowed up the faith which I had in the work, knowing, as I do, that it is true."

    At a special conference held at Kanesville, Iowa, Oct. 21, 1848, and presided over by Apostle Orson Hyde, Oliver Cowdery was present and made the following remarks:

    "Friends and Brethren, -- My name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this Church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God. He called me to a high and holy calling.

    "I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the 'holy interpreters.' That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it; I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfilment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high, Brother Hyde has just said that it is very important that we keep and walk in the true channel, in order to avoid the sand-bars. This is true. The channel is here. The holy Priesthood is here.

    I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred on us, or restored, the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, and said to us, at the same time, that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands.

    I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by holy angels from on high. This Priesthood we then conferred on each other, by the will and commandment of God. This Priesthood, as was then declared, is also to remain upon the earth until the last remnant of time. This holy Priesthood, or authority, we then conferred upon many, and is just as good and valid as though God had done it in person.

    I laid my hands upon that man -- yes, I laid my right hand upon his head (pointing to Brother Hyde), and I conferred upon him this Priesthood, and he holds that Priesthood now. He was also called through me, by the prayer of faith, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ."

    In the early part of November following Elder Hyde called a High Council in the Log Tabernacle, to consider the case of Oliver Cowdery; having been cut off by the voice of a High Council, it was thought that, if he was restored, he should be restored by the voice of a similar body. Before this body Brother Cowdery said:

    "Brethren, for a number of years I have been separated from you. I now desire to come back. I wish to come humbly and to be one in your midst. I seek no station. I only wish to be identified with you. I am out of the Church. I am not a member of the Church, but I wish to become a member of it. I wish to come in at the door. I know the door. I have not come here to seek precedence. I come humbly and throw myself upon the decisions of this body, knowing, as I do, that its decisions are right, and should be obeyed."

    Brother George W. Harris, President of the Council, moved that Brother Cowdery be received. Considerable discussion took place in relation to a certain letter which, it was alleged, Brother Cowdery had written to David Whitmer. Brother Cowdery again rose and said:

    "If there be any person that has aught against me, let him declare it. My coming back and humbly asking to become a member

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    through the door, covers the whole ground. I acknowledge this authority."

    Brother Hyde moved that Brother Oliver Cowdery be received into the Church by baptism, and that all old things be dropped and forgotten, which was seconded and carried unanimously. Soon afterwards he was re-baptized.

    Elder Phineas H. Young, who was present at the death of Oliver Cowdery, at Richmond, Missouri, March 3, 1850, says, "His last moments were spent in bearing testimony of the truth of the Gospel revealed through Joseph Smith, and the power of the holy Priesthood which he had received through his administrations."

    Elder S. W. Richards relates the following:

    "The arrival of Oliver Cowdery and his family at Council Bluffs from the east in the winter of 1848- 49 was an interesting event in the history of the Church. With his family, he was on his way to the body of the Church located in Utah, but as some time must elapse before emigrant trains could venture upon the plains, he determined to visit his wife's friends, the Whitmers, in Missouri.

    While making that journey, a severe snow storm made it convenient for his family to spend several days with Elder Samuel W. Richards and family, who were temporarily residing in upper Missouri, awaiting the opening of the emigration season. That favorable opportunity was made the most of to discuss all matters of interest connected with the early history of the Church, with which Elder Cowdery was personally acquainted and Elder Richards was not.

    "His relation of events was of no ordinary character, maintaining unequivocally all those written testimonies he had furnished to the Church and world in earlier days. Moroni, Peter, James and John, and other heavenly messengers, who had ministered to him in connection with the prophet Joseph Smith, were familiarly but sacredly spoken of, and all seemed fresh upon the memory as though but events of yesterday. His language was considerate, precise and forcible -- entirely free from lightness or frivolity -- such as might be expected from one who had been schooled with angels and taught by Prophets; more of the heavenly than the earthly.

    "His only ambition seemed to be to give himself and the remainder of his life to the Church; declared he was ready and willing, if desired, to go to the nations of the earth and bear his testimony of that which God and angels had revealed -- a testimony in his personal experience of many things which no other living person could bear. His hopes were buoyant that such might be his future lot as cast with the Church, in the body of which he declared the Priesthood and its authority were and must continue to be. An overruling Providence saw fit to order otherwise. Soon after arriving among his relatives in Missouri, he was taken sick and died, in full faith and fellowship of the latter-day work, desiring the world might know that his testimony was of God." (Contributor, Vol. 5, page 446.)

    His half-sister, Lucy P. Young, a widow of the late Phineas H. Young, relates that Oliver Cowdery married a Miss Whitmer (a sister of the Whitmer brothers) in Missouri in 1833; and thst just before breathing his last, he asked his attendants to raise him up in bed, that he might talk to the family and his friends, who were present. He then told them to live according to the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon, and promised them, if they would do this, that they would meet him in heaven. He then said, "Lay me down and let me fall asleep."


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    A few moments later he died without a struggle.

    David Whitmer testified to Apostles Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith in 1878, as follows:

    "Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw. After shaking hands with the family and kissing his wife and daughter, he said, 'Now I lay me down for the last time: I am going to my Savior;' and he died immediately, with a smile on his face." (Mill. Star. Vol. 40, page. 774.)

    In an article published in the Mill. Star, Vol. 48, page 420, Elder Edward Stevenson gives the following testimony in relation to Oliver Cowdery:

    "I have often heard him bear a faithful testimony to the restoration of the gospel by the visitation of an angel, in whose presence he stood in company with the Prophet Joseph Smith and David Whitmer. He testified that he beheld the plates, the leaves being turned over by the angel, whose voice he heard, and that they were commanded as witnesses to bear a faithful testimony to the world of the vision that they were favored to behold, and that the translation from the plates in the Book of Mormon was accepted of the Lord, and that it should go forth to the world, and no power on earth should stop its progress. Although for a time Oliver Cowdery absented himself from the body of the Church, I never have known a time when he faltered or was recreant to the trust so sacredly entrusted to him by an angel from heaven."


    (under construction)


    Nos. 1-3.                               JANUARY, 1888.                               Vol. VII.

    [p. 353]


    CHAPTER 1.

    Parentage of Joseph Smith. -- Early Education. -- Religious Impressions.
    First Vision. -- Visit of the Angel Moroni. -- Received the Records
    with the Urim and Thummim and the Breastplate.

    Joseph Smith, the great Prophet and Seer of the Nineteenth Century, was the fourth child of Joseph Srnith and Lucy Mack, and was born in Sharon, Windsor Co.,Vermont, Dec. 23, 1805. His parents (See Joseph Smith, sen., page 89) were good and honest people and taught their children to be moral, truthful and industrious. They also instructed them about God and religion, so far as their own knowledge went in this direction, but as their means were very limited, they were not able to give their children more than a common school education. The advantages which Joseph had for acquiring scientific knowledge were thus exceedingly small, being limited to a slight acquaintance with two or three of the common branches of learning. He could read without diffieully and write a very imperfect hand; and he also had a very limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only attainments; while the rest of a those branches so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States were intirely unknown to him.

    When he was about seven years old, he came near loosing his leg through a fever sore, but by opening the leg, and extracting sevcral pieces of affected bone, amputation was avoided. In this excruciating operation he exhibited that courage which united with tender feeling, always marks the character of the great and good. In 1816, Joseph being then about ten years old, his parents removed with their family from Vermont to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) County, New York. A few years later they removed to Manchester, in the same county.

    "Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchcster," writes Joseph, "there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country; indeed the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and grcat multitudes unitd themselves to the different religious parties, which created


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    (pages 354-408 not yet transcribed)


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    they wag their heads and march along. * * *

    "A man is bound by the law of the church to consecrate to the bishop before he can be considered a legal heir to the kingdom of Zion; and this, too, without constraint; and unless he does this he cannot be acknowledged before the Lord, on the Church Book. * * *

    "The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for, to give the bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the bishop's judgment, is giving to the bishop more power than a king has; and, upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the bishops. The fact is, there must be a balance or equilibrium of power between the bishop and the people; and thus harmony and good will, be preserved among you. "Therefore, those persons consecrating property to the bishop in Zion, and then receiving an inheritance back, must show reasonably to the bishop that he wants as much as he claims. But in case the two parties cannot come to a mutual agreement, the bishop is to have nothing to do about receiving their consecrations; and the case must be laid before a council of twelve high priests; the bishop not being one of the council, but he is to lay the case before them.

    "When the bishops are appointed according to our recommendation, it will devolve upon them to see to the poor, according to the laws of the church. In regard to the printing of the New Translation; it cannot be done until we can attend to it ourselves, and this we will do as soon as the Lord permits. * * *

    "The order of the Literary Firm is a matter of stewardship, which is of the greatest importance; and the mercantile establishment God commanded to be devoted to the support thereof, and God will bring every transgression into judgment..

    "Say to the brethren, Hulets, and to all others that the Lord never authorized them to say that the Devil, nor his angels, nor the son of perdition should ever be restored, for their state of destiny was not revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, save to those who are made partakers thereof: consequently those who teach this doctrine have not received it of the Spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils. We, therefore, command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion. * * * The number of disciples in Kirtland is about one hundred and fifty. We have commenced building the house of the Lord, in this place, and it goes on rapidly. Good news from the East and South of the success of the laborers is often saluting our ears. A general time of health among us; families all well: and day and night we pray for the salvation of Zion."

    July 2, 1833, Joseph finished the translation of the Bible, and on the 23rd the corner stones of the Kirtland Temple were laid. (See The Kirtland Temple, page 74.)

    On the 2nd of August the Prophet received a comforting revelation concerning the Saints in Missouri (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 97), and on the 6th another revelation commanding the Saints to observe the constitutional laws of the land, to forgive their enemies and cultivate a spirit of charity towards all men. (Doc. &. Cov., Sec. 98.)

    A few days later John Murdock was called to the ministry by revelation. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 99.)

    In the beginning of September Oliver Cowdery arrived at Kirtland as a special messenger from the Saints in Missouri, bringing news of the persecutions, the destruction of the printing office, etc., in Jackson County. Arrangements were made to despatch Elders Orson Hyde and John Gould to Missouri, with advice to the Saints in their unfortunate situation.

    Sept. 11, 1833, Joseph Smith, F. G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, N. K. Whitney and Oliver Cowdery (delegate from the Saints in Missouri) met in Council to consider the expediency of establishing a printing press in Kirtland. It was resolved that such a press be established and "conducted under the firm name of F. G. Williams & Co., and that a


    410                               JOSEPH  SMITH  THE  PROPHET.                              

    paper entitled The Latter-day Saints' Messenger and Advocate be published; also that the Star formerly published in Jackson County, Mo., be printed by the new firm at Kirtland." Soon afterward Oliver Cowdery and Bishop Whitney were sent to New York to purchase a press and other necessary material for a printing office.

    The following is Joseph's own account of a missionary trip made by him to Canada:

    "On the 5th of October, 1833, I started on a journey east and to Canada, in company with Elders Rigdon and Freeman Nickerson, and arrived the same day at Lamb's tavern, in Ashtabula; and the day following, the Sabbath, we arrived at Springfield, whilst the brethren were in meeting, and Elder Rigdon spoke to the congregation; and a large and attentive congregation assembled at Brother Rudd's in the evening, to whom we bore our testimony. * * *

    "We continued at Springfield until this time, when we removed to Brother Roundy's at Elk Creek; and continuing our journey on the evening of the 9th arrived at a tavern; and on the 10th, at Brother Job Lewis' in Westfield, where we met the brethren, according to previous appointment, and spake to them as the spirit gave utterance, greatly to their gratification.. * * *

    "On the day following, Elder Rigdon preached to a large congregation, at Freeman Nickerson's, and I bore record while the Lord gave us his spirit in a remarkable manner.

    "Monday 14th. Continued our journey towards Canada, and arrived at Lodi, where we had an appointment, and preached in the evening to a small assembly, and made an appointment for Tuesday the 13th, at ten o'clock A. M., to be in the Presbyterian meeting house.-When the hour arrived, the keeper of the house refused to open the doors, and the meeting was then prevented. We came immediately away leaving the people in great confusion, and continued our journey till Friday the 17th, when we arrived at the house of Freeman A. Nickerson in Upper Canada; having passed through a fine and well cultivated country after entering the province; and having had many peculiar feelings in relation to both the country and people. We were kindly received at Freeman A. Nickerson's.

    "Sunday morning the 19th, at ten o'clock, we met an attentive congregation at Brantford and the same evening a large assembly at Mount Pleasant, at Mr. Nickerson's. The people gave good heed to the things spoken.

    "Tuesday 21st. We went to the village of Colburn, and although it snowed severely, we held a meeting by candle light on Wednesday evening and were publicly opposed by a Wesleyan Methodist. He was very tumultuous, but exhibited a great lack of reason, knowledge and wisdom; and gave us no opportunity to reply.

    "(Thursday) 23rd, at the house of Mr. Beman in Colburn, where we left on the 24th for Waterford, where we spoke to a small congregation, occasioned by the rain; thence to Mt. Pleasant, and preached to a large congregation the same evening, when Freeman Nickerson and his wife declared their belief in the work and offered themselves for


                                  JOSEPH  SMITH  THE  PROPHET.                               411

    baptism. Great excitement prevailed in every place we visited.-Twenty fifth, preached at Mount Pleasant; the people were very tender and enquiring.

    "Sunday 26th. Preached to a large congregation at Mount Pleasant, after which I baptised twelve; and others were deeply impressed and desired another meeting, which I appointed for the day following.

    "(Monday) 27th, in the evening, we broke bread, and laid on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost and for confirmation, having baptised two more. The spirit was given in great power to some, and peace to others.

    "(Tuesday) 28th after preaching at 10 o'clock, A. M. I baptised two and confirmed them at the water's side. Last evening we ordained E. F. Nickerson an elder, and one of the sisters received the gift of tongues which made the saints rejoice exceedingly.

    "Tuesday, Oct. 29th. We took our departure from Mount Pleasant, on our return to Kirtland, and arrived at Buffalo, New York, on the 31st.

    "Friday, Nove. 1st, I left Buffalo, New York, at 8 o’clock a.m., and arrived at my house in Kirtland on Monday, the 4th, 10 a.m. and found my family well, according to the promise of the Lord in the revelation of October 12th, for which I felt to thank my heavenly Father."

    Under date of Nov. 19th the Prophet records the following:

    "My heart is somewhat sorrowful, but I feel to trust in the Lord, the God of Jacob. I have learned in my travels that man is treacherous and selfish, but few excepted. * * * The man who willeth to do well, we should extol his virtues and speak not of his faults behind his back. A man who wilfully turneth away from his friend without a cause, is not easily forgiven. The kindness of a man should never be forgotten. That person who never forsaketh his trust, should ever have the highest place for regard in our hearts, and our love should never fail, but increase more and more, and this is my disposition and sentiment."

    Nov. 25th, Elders Orson Hyde and John Gould returned to Kirtland from Missouri bringing the melancholy intelligence of the mobbings and persecutions in Jackson County, and a few days later he received communications from W. W. Phelps, Bishop Partridge and other leading men in Missouri, giving the particulars of the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County the month previous. On the 10th of December, Joseph wrote a lengthy communication addressed to Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, A. S. Gilbert, J. Corrill, Isaac Morely and the Saints generally, of which the following are extracts:

    "I cannot learn from any communication by the spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time. I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction, from what I could learn from the commandments which have been given. But I would remind you of a certain clause in one which says, that after much tribulation cometh the blessing. By this, and also others, and also one received of late, I know that Zion, in the own due time of the Lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I enquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is, be still, and know that I am God!


    412                               JOSEPH  SMITH  THE  PROPHET.                              

    all those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.-Now there are two things of which I am ignorant, and the Lord will not shew them unto me perhaps for a wise purpose in himself; I mean in some respects: and they are these, why God has suffered so great a calamity to come upon Zion; and what the great moving cause of this great affliction is: and again, by what means he will return her back to her inheritance, with songs of everlasting joy upon her head. These two things, brethren, are in part kept back that they are not plainly manifest, in consequence of those who have incurred the displeasure of the Almighty.

    When I contemplate upon all things that have been manifested, I am sensible that I ought not to murmur and do not murmur only in this, that those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this, only on this wise, that the saying of the Savior has not been strictly observed: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; or if thy right arm offend thee, cut it off and cast if from thee." Now the fact is, if any of the members of our body are disordered, the rest of our body will be effected with them, and then all is brought into bondage together, and yet, notwithstanding all this, it is with difficulty that I can restrain my feelings, when I know that you, my brethren, with whom I have had so many happy hours, sitting, as it were, in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and also, having the witness which I feel, and ever have felt of the purity of your motives, are cast out, and are as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, exposed to hunger, cold, nakedness, peril, sword, &c.; I say when I contemplate this, it is with difficulty that I can keep from complaining and murmuring against this dispensation; but I am sensible that this is not right, and may God grant, that notwithstanding your great afflictions and sufferings, there may not anything separate us from the love of Christ.

    Brethren, when we learn your suffering it awakens every sympathy of our hearts, it weighs us down; we cannot refrain from tears, yet, we are not able to realize, only in part, your sufferings: and I often hear the brethren saying, they wish they were with you, that they might bear a part of your sufferings: and I myself should have been with you, had not God prevented it in the order of his providence; that the yoke of affliction might be less grievous upon you; God having forewarned me, concerning these things, for your sakes; and also, Elder Cowdery could not have lightened your afflictions by tarrying longer with you, for his presence would have so much the more enraged your enemies; therefore, God hath dealt mercifully with us.

    O brethren, let us be thankful that it is as well with us as it is, and we are yet alive, that peradventure, God hath laid up in store, great good for us in this generation, and grant that we may yet glorify his name.

    I feel thankful that there have no more denied the faith: I pray God in the name of Jesus that you all may be kept in the faith, unto the end: let your suffering be what they may, it is better in the eyes of God, that you should die, than that you should give up the land of Zion, the inheritances which you have purchased with your monies; for every man that giveth not up his inheritance, though he should die, yet, when the Lord shall come, he shall stand upon it, and with Job in his flesh he shall see God. Therefore, this is my counsel, that you retain your lands, even unto the uttermost, and seek every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies, &c. &c.; and pray to God, day and night, to return you in peace and in safety to the lands of your inheritance: and when the judge fails you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fails you, appeal unto the president; and when the president fails you, and all laws fail you, and the humanity of the people fails you, and all things else fail you but God alone, and you continue to weary him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust judge, he will not fail to execute judgment upon your enemies, and to avenge his own elect that cry unto him day and night.

    Behold he will not fail you! He will come with ten thousand of his saints, and all his adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of his lips! all those who keep their inheritances, notwithstanding they should be beaten and driven, shall be likened unto the wise virgins who took oil in their lamps. But all those who are unbelieving and fearful, will be likened unto the foolish virgins, who took no oil in their lamps: and when they shall return and say unto the saints give us of your lands, behold there will be no room found for them. As respects giving deeds: I would advise you to give deeds as far as the brethren have legal and just claims for them, and then let every man answer to God for the disposal of them. * * *

    Now hear the prayer of your unworthy


                                  JOSEPH  SMITH  THE  PROPHET.                               413

    brother in the new and everlasting covenant: O my God! thou who hast called and chosen a few, through thy weak instrument, by commandment, and sent them to Missouri, a place which thou didst call Zion, and commanded thy servants to consecrate it unto thyself for a place of refuge and safety for the gathering of thy saints, to be built up a holy city unto thyself; and as thou hast said that no other place should be appointed like unto this; therefore, I ask thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to return thy people unto their houses, and their inheritances, to enjoy the fruit of their labors; that all the waste places may be built up; that all the enemies of thy people, who will not repent and turn unto thee, be destroyed from off the face of the land; and let a house be built and established unto thy name; and let all the losses that thy people have sustained, be rewarded unto them, even more than four fold: that the borders of Zion be enlarged forever, and let her be established no more to be thrown down; and let all thy saints when they are scattered like sheep and are persecuted, flee unto Zion, and be established in the midst of her, and let her be organized according to thy law, and let this prayer ever be recorded before thy face; give thy Holy Spirit unto my brethren, unto whom I write; send thy angels to guard them, and deliver them from all evil; and when they turn their faces towards Zion, and bow down before thee and pray, may their sins never come up before thy face, neither have place in the book of thy remembrance, and may they depart from all their iniquities; provide food for them as thou doest for the ravens; provide clothing to cover their nakedness, and houses that they may dwell therein; give unto them friends in abundance, and let their names be recorded in the Lamb's book of life, eternally before thy face; Amen.

    A few days later (Dec. 16th) Joseph reveived a revelation, in which the Lord said, that he had allowed these afflictions to come upon the inhabitants of Zion in consequence of their transgressions, but that He would still be merciful unto them and in in His own due time permit the pure in heart to return to their inheritances. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 101.

    Oliver Cowdery and Bishop Whitney, who some time previous had been sent to New York to purchase a new press, type, etc., for a printing office, and also merchandise wherewith to stock a store which they intended to open in Kirtland, returned to the latter place Dec. 1st, and on the 18th "the printing press, and all that pertained thereto, was dedicated to God by Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and Sidney Rigdon; after which they commenced to publish The Evening and Morning Star, with Oliver Cowdery as editor." On the same day Joseph Smith, sen., the Prophet's father, was ordained to the office of Patriarch to the Church (See Page 89.)

    Dec. 19th, William Pratt and David W. Patten left Kirtland for Missouri, bearing dispatches from the First Presidency to the exiled Saints.

    Dec. 26, 1835, Joseph received a revelation concerning Lyman Sherman. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 108.) [out of chronological sequence]

    CHAPTER 7.

    The First High Council of the Church Organized. -- Dr. Hulbert's Annoyances.
    -- Conference in New Portage. -- Zion's Camp. -- The Messenger and Advocate
    First Published. -- Joseph Visits the Saints in Michigan. --
    The Law of Tithing Introduced.

    Jan 22, 1834, the Presidency in Kirtland wrote a comforting letter to the Saints in Missouri, which they forwarded together with a copy given Dec. 16, 1833. Some means which had been gathered among the eastern Branches for the relief of the exiled Saints was also sent.

    Feb. 17, 1834, the first High Council of the Church was organized in Joseph Smith's house in Kirtland, agreeable to revelation; 24 High Priests were present on that occasion, and by their unanimous vote Joseph Smith, jun., Sidney Rigdon


    414                               JOSEPH  SMITH  THE  PROPHET.                              

    and F. G. Williams were acknowledged as Presidents, and Joseph Smith, sen., John Smith, Joseph Coe, John Johnson, Martin Harris, John S. Carter, Jacob Carter, Oliver Cowdery, Samuel H. Smith, Orson Hyde, Sylvester Smith and Luke Johnson were chosen as members of the Council, which was appointed by revelation for the purpose of settling important difficulties that might arise in the Church, which could not be settled by the Church or the Bishop's Council to the satisfaction of the parties. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 102.) In the next meeting held on the 19th, Joseph laid his hands on the twelve Councilors and the assistant Presidents and blessed them. He also give excellent instructions in regard to the duties connected with their high and important calling. There being at that time a number of complaints against some of the brethren and several cases of importance to consider, the Council was soon busy in regular sessions.

    Previous to this an apostle by the name of Doctor P. Hurlbert had visited the State of New York, and there gathered up all the ridiculous stories that could be invented, and had even secured some affidavits respecting the character of Joseph and the Smith family, which subsequently were proven to be absolutely false. With these papers he returned to Ohio and stirred up much indignation against Joseph and the Church by lecturing before numerous congregations in Chagrin, Kirtland, Mentor, Painesville and other places. He even threatened that he would take Joseph's life, if he could not destroy "Mormonism" by any other means. For these threats he was arrested, and after an impartial trial in the town of Chardon bound over in the sum of $200 to keep the peace in six months, and also to pay the costs of suit, which amounted to about three hundred dollars.

    On the 24th of February Joseph received a revelation, in which the Lord commanded him to gather the strength of the Church, the young and middle-aged men, from the various branches in the East, and march with them to Missouri to redeem Zion. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, F. G. Williams, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight were called by revelation to go out two and two in different directions and gather the men and preach to the people. Joseph and Parley P. Pratt were to travel together. (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 103.) They left Kirtland Feb. 26th and traveled eastward to the State of New York, visiting the several branches of the Church on their way and also held meetings with strangers wherever they had opportunity to do so. On several occasions they spoke to large congregations and bore powerful testimonies of the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel which in several places bore good fruit. In Freedom, Cataraugus Co., New York, they baptized Heman Hyde, and in a short time a branch of 30 or 40 members was organized there. In Genesee they met Sidney Rigdon and other brethren from Kirtland and together they held a conference at Avon, Livingston Co,m New York, March 16th, where considerable business was transacted in the interest of the Church. From this conference Joseph returned to Kirtland, where he arrived March 28th, having been absent about a month and had a pleasant


                                  JOSEPH  SMITH  THE  PROPHET.                               415

    and successful journey. The Spirit of God rested upon many of the young and middle-aged men of the Church, who cheerfully volunteered to go to Missouri to aid their suffering brethren. It was after Joseph's return from this trip that he met in the court at Chardon against Doctor Hurlbert with the above-mentioned result.

    Joseph writes:

    "April 18th, in company with Elders Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and Zebedee Coltrin, for New Portage, to attend a conference. Dined at W. W. Williams', in Newburgh, and continuing our journey, after dark we were hailed by a man who desired to ride. We were checked by the Spirit, and refused. He professed to be sick, but in a few minutes was joined by two others, who followed us hard, cursing and swearing, but we were successful in escaping their hands, through the providence of the Lord, and staid that night at a tavern, where we were treated with civility.

    "On the l9th continuing our journey, dined at Brother Joseph Bosworth's, in Copley, Medina County. Brother Bosworth was strong in the faith, and if faithful may do much good. We arrived the same day at Brother Jonathan Taylor's, in Norton, where we were received with kindness. We soon retired to the wilderness, where we united in prayer and supplication for the blessings of the Lord to be given unto his church. We called upon the Father in the name of Jesus to go with the brethren who were going to the land of Zion, and that I might have strength and wisdom and understanding sufficient to lead the people of the Lord, and to gather back and establish the saints upon the land of their inheritances, and organize them according to the will of heaven, that they be no more cast down forever. We then united in the laying on of hands.

    "Elders Rigdon, Cowdery, and Coltrin laid their hands on my head and conferred upon me all the blessings necessary to qualify me to stand before the Lord, in my calling, and be returned again in peace, and triumph, to enjoy the society of my brethren.

    "Those present then laid their hands upon Elder Rigdon, and confirmed upon him the blessings of wisdom and knowledge to preside over the church in my absence; to have the Spirit to assist Elder Cowdery in conducting the Star, * * *

    "Previous to blessing Elder Rigdon we laid hands on Elder Cowdery and confirmed upon him the blessings of wisdom and understanding sufficient for his station, that he be qualified to assist Elder Rigdon in arranging the church covenants, which are soon to be published; and have intelligence in all things to do the work of printing.

    "After blessing Elder Rigdon we laid our hands upon Brother Zebedee, and confirmed the blessings of wisdom to preach the gospel even till it spreads to the islands of the seas, and to be spared to see threescore years and ten, and see Zion built up and Kirtland established forever, and even at last to receive a crown of life. Our hearts rejoiced and we were comforted with the Holy Spirit."

    After attending the conference...

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    Transcriber's Comments

    Andrew Jensons' "Historical Record" articles.

    (under construction)

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