The Real Founder of Mormonism
Palmyra First Edition -- Book of Mormon
William H. Whitsitt
BOOK THE THIRD:
THE DISCIPLE PERIOD: Oct. 11, 1823 -- Nov. 8, 1830
(Section VIII, pp. 514-555)
Contents | Book I | Book II | Book III: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 | Book IV | Book V
It has been shown above that the Book of Mormon, for which a copyright was issued at Palmyra on the 11th of June 1829 (Myth of the Manuscript Found, by George Reynolds, Salt Lake City, 1883, p. 74), was delivered to the printer towards the last of March 1830. Mr. Smith had passed much of the intervening winter season at Harmony in Pennsylvania; he was now promptly on the ground to receive the work, and to constrain Martin Harris to meet the obligations he had assumed towards the publisher (D.&C., Sect. 19).
On the sixth day of April
few days later it again appears as nothing other than the "Church of Christ." The same thing may be read at D&C 42:78. In several of these places Joseph had the grace to designate it as "this Church of Christ," as if to distinguish his organization from another body which he was aware that Mr. Campbell stood at the head of.
A singular inaccuracy has arisen regarding the place where the "Church of Christ" had its birth
Hither was brought, in its season, the recently completed manuscript of the Book of Mormon; here was prepared the curious artificial cave mentioned by Pomeroy Tucker for the purpose of guarding that treasure from harm (Tucker. pp. 48-9); hence were carried from day to day that portion of the copy which Oliver Cowdery considered it would be safe to intrust to the printers of Mr. Egbert Grandin. The homestead is now said to be owned by Mr. Amos Miner (Tucker, p. 49), and is one of the most important scenes connected with Mormon history.
What proof is found to substantiate the conclusion that Joseph and the balance of the Mormon teachers are mistaken in supposing that the rightful birthplace of the Mormon Church is in Ontario
Chapters XVI-XXI of the first edition are printed as five separate revelations, which all occurred in Manchester on the 6th of April just previous to the organization of the "Church of Christ;" Orson Pratt has included these all in one (D&C, 23), and has further sadly confused the progress of history by setting them down after the event just now cited.
Chapter XXII of the first edition is the only one that befell at the organization of the Church; in that edition it bears the superscription "A Revelation to Joseph, given in Manchester, New York, April 6th, 1830." The same production in Mr. Pratt's edition (D&C, Sect. 22), bears the contradictory superscription: "A Revelation to Joseph Smith, Jun., given at Fayette, New York, April 6th, 1830."
No choice is left but to follow the original source. The church was founded in Manchester and not as Joseph and the Mormons supposed in Fayette, New York.
It is entirely feasible to explain the fashion in which this blunder was produced. It owes it origin to the fact the first Conference of the Church was in Joseph's mind a far more important event than the organization of it. That first Conference was held at the house of the Whitmers in Fayette on the first of June 1830. There and then, according to the first edition of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, was delivered the Confession of Faith, Cultus and Discipline of the "Church of Christ." In Orson Pratt's edition this is
in Section 20 and stupidly enough is placed in advance of Section 21, All Mormon authorities to the contrary, notwithstanding, this performance did not see the light until the first of June 1830; it will be vain any longer to date it the 6th of April 1830. In the original edition it bears the unmistakable superscription: "The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, given in Fayette, New York, June 1830." Against such a witness it would be useless to contend.
Joseph was proud of this performance; to his thinking the "Church of Christ" had not been rightly founded until such a basis had been provided for it to rest upon. Accordingly in the course of time he must have fallen into the custom of dating the origin of his community from the first Conference where the "Articles and Covenants" of the organization were set forward. By degrees he advanced to the confusion of ignoring dates and places; the result is apparent throughout Mormon literature. The organization of the church has been removed from Manchester to Fayette, and the date of the "Articles and Covenants" has been transferred from the first of June to the 6th of April, 1830 -- a curious play of cross-purposes.
Only six persons were found suitable to have a share in the honor of establishing "this Church of Christ;" it is likely that no others had yet been admitted to the waters of baptism. The names of the favored parties are Joseph Smith, Jun., Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith,
David Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery. Lucy Smith records the circumstance that Samuel H. Smith was immersed on the same day as Joseph and Oliver, and but a few hours later (Joseph Smith, p. 139). In the month of June 1829 were baptized Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer and Peter Whitmer, Jun. The observance was performed in Seneca Lake, Joseph officiating in the two former instances and Oliver in the case of Peter Whitmer, Jun. (Tullidge, p. 69). Besides the above there is nowhere any record of immersion in the new dispensation prior to the 6th of April 1830.
Though only half a dozen took part in the business, it is pretty evident that it had been duly published and prepared. This may be concluded from the fact that the two Whitmers were present, who resided five and twenty miles distant in another county; nay, Mr. Joseph Knight, Sen. had come nigh from Colesville in Broome county -- a much longer journey -- to observe the new turn which affairs were expected to take. On the very day of the organization of the church he was favored with a special revelation given in Manchester (Book of Commandments, first ed., Chap. XXI, and D&C 23:6-7).
The enterprise of organization was accomplished on a Tuesday, possibly for the reason that Monday was required for the Whitmers to perform the journey from Fayette. The occasion was distinguished by the single revelation which is marked in Pratt's edition
as Section 21. In this place Mr. Smith entrenches his position against the hazards of rivalry (D&C, 21:1-9). The faithful were instantly exhorted to give heed to all the words and behests of Joseph with the trepidation that it would be unlawful to lend an ear to any other. Having duly confirmed that himself and Oliver must mutually ordain each other to the office of elder or apostle, which at this early
It is very worthy of comment that nobody could be persuaded to enter the waters of baptism at this moment. Possibly the prejudice of the community was now become so active that it would be esteemed prudent to abstain from offering it as an additional challenge. Joseph Smith, Sen. and his wife Lucy, as also O.P. Rockwell and his good wife Caroline, were keen to partake of that grace, but they were not gratified until several days afterward when the party had made their
way to Seneca county, where in Fayette township, a distance of twenty five miles away from the scene where the church was established, the ceremony could be enacted without interruption. (Tullidge, p.77).
Arrived at Fayette sometime between the 6th and the 11th day of April, Mr. Smith concluded that if his was the "Church of Christ," it was high time that the voice of preaching were heard within its borders. He had not yet found his own tongue that way, and so decided to break his lieutenant, Oliver Cowdery, into the harness. By consequence Mr. Cowdery had the distinction to pronounce the first public discourse that was ever heard among them, if one leaves out of the account numerous harangues which Mr. Rigdon had long been indulging on the Western Reserve, with more or less covert allusion to the subject. The scene of this maiden discourse was the house of Peter Whitmer, Sr., and the time was Sunday the 11th of April, 1830.
The prophet's labors were rewarded with considerable success in Fayette. Possibly after the proclamation made by Oliver on the 11th of April the waters of baptism were immediately troddled by Joseph Smith, Sen., O.P. Rockwell and their wives (Tullidge, p. 77). But Martin Harris, as usual, appears to have given trouble. As late as the closing days of March 1830, it was still a question whether he would cast his fortunes with the movement. Though the church was organized within a short distance of his residence, it does not
seem clear that he possessed a sufficient amount of courage or of concern to attend the performance. No record is supplied anywhere of his presence; it is likely that at that moment he was still engaged in "running about as a blind guide" who refused to be "humble and meek" and to "come unto the Savior" (D&C, 19:40-41). But his opposition was at length broken down; he had left his home and followed the steps of Mr. Smith to Fayette, where being in a measure secure from the ridicule of his good wife, Lucy, he had become fixed in his purpose to join the Mormons.
But in the previous course of his pilgrimage, Martin had made the round of many churches. "He was first an orthodox Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyterian" (Howe, p. 261). Among the Baptists he had received the rite of immersion, and Martin would naturally raise the inquiry whether that immersion would not suffice for Mormon uses. Joseph was for an instant [raveled] by this objection, but after slight hesitation he found skill to resolve it by means of a revelation. Accordingly, he produced the paper which Orson Pratt in his edition had designated as Section 22. In the first edition it is given as Chapter XXIII, and bears the following significant title: "A Commandment unto the Church of Christ, which was established in these last days, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty: Given in Fayette, New York, April 1830, in consequence of some desiring to unite with the church without re-baptism."
By this process an end was speedily found for all the nonsense of Martin Harris, touching his immersion among the Baptists, and the Mormons took their stand once for all against "alien immersion." Harris was duly baptized at Fayette (Tullidge, p. 77), and went back to his good wife well confirmed in the faith.
Small thanks are due to Mr. Orson Pratt for corrupting the sources of history at this point. By comparing the title of this revelation as he supplies it (D&C, Sect. 22), one will find that instead of the name "Fayette," he has unwarrantably substituted "Manchester" -- a highly rehensible liberty, for which he can hardly be too severely blamed.
The Whitmer family who figure so prominently in the background of the description given above, were known as "Pennsylvania Dutch" people. Some years before this history begins they had come from Pennsylvania to the situation they now occupied in Fayette township, New York. They were members of the Zion Church (afterwards designated as Jerusalem Church), a somewhat obscure organization of the German Reformed persuasion, that had been established in the [eastern] section of the township. In the year 1821, it had fallen under the pastoral supervision of the Rev. Diedrich Villers, an excellent minister of that church and vicinity. Peter Whitmer, Sen., was the father of the rather numerous and ignorant tribe (New Light on Mormonism, pp. 249-252).
The garrulous old Lucy Smith, it has been signified, claims the merit of having perverted the household to the pretensions of her son, she having lodged with them overnight, on the occasion of a journey she was performing from Manchester to Harmony for the purpose of visiting Joseph and Emma at their home (Joseph Smith, p. 145). By this process the Whitmer house was made a convenient halting place for persons who chanced to be on the way from Harmony to Palmyra in the interest of the new movement. Oliver Cowdery is believed to have called there on his first visit to Joseph in the month of April, 1829 (Tullidge, p. ). The family were sadly burdened by the demands which the Smiths and others of the saintly party made upon their hospitality; for many months the house must have more resembled a wayside tavern than a private residence.
Mr. Smith was in a high state of concern regarding the attitude of Joseph Knight, Sen. That person had been one of his longest and firmest supporters. When he had first gone to Harmony in the character of a treasure seeker under the employ of the silly Mr. Stowell, Joseph had already formed acquaintance with the still more silly Mr. Knight. Possibly the latter was as comfortably supplied with fool's pence as the former; Knight was the owner of a farm, a grist mill and a carding machine. Having sometimes occasion to employ hired help in carrying forward his various enterprises, he had once engaged the service of Mr. Smith, perhaps upon the termination of the young adventurer's engagement with Stowel in the silver mine (Newel Knight's Journal, in "Scraps of Biography," Salt Lake City, 1883, p. 47).
Mr. Stowel had now obtained complete independence of Joseph's power to charm, but unhappily that excellent fortune had not been vouchsafed unto Knight. Having gone forward to attend the recovery of the "plates" in the autumn of 1827, he was now in the spring of the year 1830 once more on hand, to witness the rise of the church, this time, however, without the advantage of Mr. Stowel's society.
Knight seemed just upon the point of entering the new organization. In the revelation bestowed upon him on the 6th of April at Manchester his duty had been enforced upon his conscience
in terms that were sufficiently direct (D&C, 23:7; compare first ed. Chap. XXI). Under the preaching of Mr. Cowdery at Fayette on the 11th he had contrived to maintain his equanimity; he did not come forward as others had done to ask the grace of baptism. Mr. Smith was perplexed; there was reason to fear the loss of what would prove a valuable acquisition. Unless he should make sure of Knight while the iron was at white heat, there might never be another opportunity. Accordingly preparations were made to accompany him from Fayette to his home at Colesville in Broome county.
Mr. Knight was not easy to capture. A Universalist by religious conviction, and decently well fixed in his ways, it was not the labor of a morning to carry him off his feet. Moreover, having never tried his hand at preaching, Joseph was hardly yet aware of his faculty that way. In the meetings that he held at Colesville, he was constrained by dint of sheer timidity to confine his ministrations to a mere prayer-meeting service, in which it was not so convenient for him to exhibit his extraordinary powers (Newel Knight, as above, p.50).
Notwithstanding strenuous exertions both in that capacity and by private conversation, the success of Joseph in Colesville was incomplete. Newel Knight, one of the sons, had been thrown into a state of trance, like that which everywhere prevailed among religious circles in the country at that day, but not a single member of the Knight household could be induced
to desire baptism. Possibly it was in a dejected frame of mind that Joseph, towards the last of April, took his leave of Colesville to visit his wife at Harmony.
By means of a process which has not yet been explained he was this time fortunate enough to appease the disgust with which this excellent lady, it is conceived, had hitherto regarded her husband. Resting quietly at home a few days, he found occasion to work upon her sentiments to such an extent that she was persuaded to accompany him to Fayette, New York, sometime during the month of May 1830. Towards the close of this month, Newel Knight, having at length become content to cast in his lot with "this Church of Christ," appeared at Fayette, where he was duly immersed by David Whitmer (Tullidge, p. 81).
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According to the "Book of Commandments," which was the style and title of the first edition of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, this document was not issued, as Joseph Smith has asserted, on the 6th of April, at the organization of the Church, but rather at the first Conference of the church held in the dwelling of Peter Whitmer, Sen., of Fayette township, on the first of June 1830. Its original designation was "The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, given in Fayette, New York, June 1830 (Book of Commandments, Chap. XXIV).
This performance has never received all the attention it deserved. By reason of the circumstances that the faith, constitution, cultus and discipline subsequently underwent a great variety of modifications, it has come to pass that the earliest form
For this purpose it will be desirable to undertake a brief survey of the above named "Articles and Covenants," as the same
are set forth in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, Section 20, of Orson Pratt's edition. These display in many regards a disposition to observe the doctrines and practices enjoined by the Book of Mormon, but several notable exceptions will be mentioned in their places, where the decidedly Methodist tendencies of the young prophet got the start of Mr. Rigdon and the Book of Mormon.
The "Articles and Covenants" are appropriately opened with a record of the birthday of the new body -- the 6th of April, 1830 -- and likewise of its full name, -- "Church of Christ" (20:1). The credentials of Joseph and Oliver are then presented in the form of a report to the effect that the mutual ordination which had been divinely commanded on the 6th of April was now duly performed (vv. 2-4).
Those preliminaries having been properly observed the document then under the tenet concerning the Holy Scriptures (vv. 5-16). It was not unusual in other Confessions of Faith to discuss the Scriptures at the head of the list. In discussing the Holy Scriptures it was supposed to be suitable to apply a brief history of Joseph and of his translation of the Book of Mormon. That volume
is given out to have been inspired in the original Reformed Egyptian (v. 10), besides being translated into the English language by an inspired prophet (v. 7). Its purpose is not to subvert the existing sacred books, but rather to confirm them by "proving to the world that the Holy Scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men. and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old" (v. 11). These two witnesses -- the Bible and the "fullness of the gospel," or Book of Mormon, combined -- are so clear and satisfactory that all who reject them and refuse to accept Mormonism must perish without excuse (vv. 13-16).
Following the order that has been established for ages in such concerns, Joseph after setting forth the doctrine touching the Sacred Writings next undertakes to handle the doctrine regarding the Father (v. 17); this suggests the creation and of man (vv. 18-20); which naturally leads to the tenet regarding Christ the Son (vv. 21-24). At this point he comes to the plan of salvation (vv. 25-27), where allusion is likewise made to the Holy Spirit (v. 27). The three persons of the holy Trinity being now all reported, Joseph in the following verse (v. 23), exhibits the doctrine of the Trinity adding a second explication
This point being reached, the prophet now turns to the tenet of justification (v. 30). After justification he gives attention to
the topic of Sanctification, where he betrays rather clearly his Methodist inclinations and leaves behind him the Book of Mormon (v. 31); again, in the exact fashion of Methodism he follows with the tenet of "falling from grace" (vv. 32-34), and like Mr. Wesley does not hesitate to declare that it is possible to fall from the heights of sanctification into the condition of a cast-away (v. 34).
At the close of the Confession of Faith, which by the way is arranged and expressed as well as might be expected from a rude denizen of the backwoods, Joseph adds customary asseverations to the effect that the above doctrines are true and biblical (vv. 35-6).
When Sidney got a view of this confession of faith he must have been filled with mortification. The cry of the Disciples had always been: "Bo creeds; no confessions of faith." These were not apostolical in the first place; in the second place the New Testament is a sufficient confession of faith; it was important to avoid the perils of definite statement. This particular definite statement, moreover, embraced one or two points that must have been distasteful to his Disciple palate. He held the Methodist tenet of sanctification in abomination; the tenet of "falling from grace" would comport well enough with the Arminian standing-point of the Disciples, but Sidney would deplore a phraseology that was so well known to be cultivated by the Methodists. The inconveniences and hazards of a wide separation
in space from the prophet were becoming manifest; it was apparent that his removal to Kirtland where his revelations might be kept under immediate surveillance, must be procured as speedily as possible.
Having concluded the exhibition of his confession of faith, Joseph now gives his care to the elaboration of a constitution for the infant organization (vv. 37-64).
He begins at the beginning in a reasonably workmanlike style. The first topic handled is the reception of members into the body (v. 37), Methodism here celebrates another triumph over the "ancient gospel" and Mr. Rigdon. It was required that the subject should relate an "experience" of religion, and especially that he should claim that he had received a remission of sins before he should be admitted to baptism, while it was one of the most express conditions of Disciple theology that sins are remitted nowhere else than in baptism.
After providing for the reception of members, Joseph next turns to consider the officers of the "Church of Christ," and the duties that are incumbent upon them.
In the Church of Christ as first organized there were no other officers than Elders, Priests, Teachers and Deacons (v. 33); no hint was given of the eumbrous hierarchy which was subsequently brought into play (D&C, 107). The constitution of the body as Joseph first established it was as much different from its constitution when he left it as one can easily conceive.
Reference to chapter XXXII of the present section will show that in prescribing the above offices the prophet consulted
The Disciples or Elders of the Book of Mormon are here designated by the name of Apostles or Elders. The two terms Apostle and Elder were nothing else than different names for the same officer: "an apostle is an elder" (v. 38). During the early years of Mormon history, down to the 28th of March 1835. it was likewise true that an elder was an apostle. For example, Mr. Rigdon in the opening sentences of a letter dated at Fayette, New York, on the 4th of January 1831, and addressed to the church at Kirtland says: "I send you this letter by John Whitmer. Receive him, for he is a brother greatly beloved, and an apostle of this church" (Howe, p.110).
But Mr. Whitmer never was promoted to the ranks of the Twelve Apostles as they were instituted at Kirtland on the date mentioned
(D&C, 107:23). In brief every person who prior to the year 1835 was ordained to the station of an elder, was also an apostle by virtue of his office and ordination, (Howe, p. 208). In the month of June 1829 nearly a twelvemonth before the establishment of the church, Joseph had obtained a revelation (D&C, 18) in which he made known the calling of Twelve "Disciples." But the church had not been in operation two years before there were more than a gross of Apostles or Elders. This abundance was beginning to be felt as embarrassing; it was something too easy to vault into the foremost position in the community. Finally it was decided to put a stay upon what was considered as a manifest evil.
Inasmuch as Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer had been exhorted to search out the Twelve Disciples who had been predicted in June 1829 (D&C 18:37) they were summoned on the 14th of February 1835 to make an end of the confusion
These Twelve Apostles were designated as the "Twelve Traveling Counselors, or special witnesses" (D&C, 107:23). None were chosen to that dignity, except such as were expected to travel abroad in order to extend the knowledge of Mormonism into the regions beyond (D&C 107:98). In the course of time the title Apostle got to be applied to these "Traveling Counselors" exclusively, until at the present moment several Mormon writers of information have lost sight of the fact that there were hundreds of apostles or elders before the date on which the Counselors were assigned to their stations.
The duties assigned to the original apostles or elders were to baptize, ordain, administer the sacrament; to impose hands upon those who had just been baptized; to teach, expound, exhort; to impose hands upon the entire church in what were designated as "confirmation meetings" (D&C, 46:61); to take the lead of meetings, as they were "led by the Holy Ghost." (vv. 38-44).
In this place is the earliest allusion (v. 41), to the ceremony of laying on hands in order to communicate the Holy Spirit after baptism. If Sidney had been on the spot it is not likely that this alteration of the "Five points of Campbellism" would have occurred. But left to himself, Joseph found it convenient to mend the scheme of Mr. Scott's "ancient gospel" by that addition. It has held its position ever since, despite the fact that it is a variation from strict Bethany usage.
So much confidence had Mr. Smith in the efficacy of the hands of the apostles or elders that he likewise provided that from time to time they should be laid upon the heads of the entire church (v. 43), in what were designated as "confirmation" meetings (D&C 46:6). Whether this provision of early Mormonism still abides in honor among the faithful is a point regarding which no information has been conveyed.
To conduct meetings "as they are led by the Holy Ghost," was a crotchet borrowed from the Book of Mormon; in the appropriate place it was intimated that this was originally copied from Mr. Campbell's fine stock of vagaries. At a later period Joseph became dubious of the Holy Ghost, and ordained that "the high priest and elder are to administer in spiritual things agreeable to the covenants and commandments of the church (D&C 107:12), -- an experience analogous to that which chanced to Mr. Campbell as well.
After the above instructions to the apostles or elders, Joseph next lays down the duties of priests (vv. 48-52). Nothing is heard as yet concerning high-priests, or other nonsense of that type.
Next in order come the teachers and deacons whose functions are prescribed in vv. 53-59. According to v. 59, both of these officers were expected to minister in word and doctrine, though they were not suffered to baptize,
administer the sacrament, or lay on hands (v. 58), it was yet competent for them to "warn, expound, exhort and teach and invite all to come unto Christ," just as the apostles and priests were required to do.
The grace of ordination is prescribed for all the officers alike in v. 60.
The names and functions of the several officers having been arranged, Mr. Smith makes provisions for a general meeting of the constituted authorities of the church, which is designated as a Conference, after the fashion of the Methodist church. The conference was enjoined to meet once every three months, or from time to time according to the wishes of the body (v. 61). It was to be composed of the several elders belonging to the church; the privilege of a seat in it was a prerequisite of the office of elder or apostle. No election or other form of delegation at the hands of the local churches is mentioned. It was, therefore, not a representative body, or in any direct way responsible to the local churches.
The conference was expected "to do whatever church business is necessary to be done at the time," apparently without reference to the will or wishes of the individual churches (v. 62). But there was one point where these churches were granted liberty to express their judgment.
It was forbidden to convey a license to a new elder without the vote of the local church where his membership might be held, except in a case where the conference should be inclined to override the conclusion of the said local church (v. 63). The above prohibition did not apply in the
After the 28th of March 1835 when the hierarchy had been much enlarged Joseph added vv. 65-67, in which reference is given to an array of presiding elders, traveling bishops, high counselors, and other
After the above brief survey of the Constitution of the Mormon church, as it first appeared it may be permitted to consider the cultus and Discipline of the infant organization. (vv. 63-64).
Injunctions are given in vv. 68-69 touching the duty of instructing private members after baptism. and the conduct that should be required at their hands.
The conflict between Joseph and Sidney regarding the propriety of infant baptism is believed to have been somewhat sharp, resulting in a kind of compromise by the terms of which infant consecration was
accepted as a satisfactory substitute. In v. 70 every member of the community is commanded to bring his infant children before the elders for the purpose of having these lay their hands upon them; but no one was eligible to membership until he had attained to years of accountability (v. 71).
The act and the formula of baptism are set forth in vv. 72-74. Coming now to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, it was ordained that "the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus" (v. 75). This regulation has always been interpreted by the Mormons to enjoin weekly communion after the manner of the Disciples. A kind of liturgy for the observance of that rite is supplied in vv. 76-79.
Discipline for transgression is commanded in v. 80. Prescriptions regulating the method of gathering and preserving the statistics of the body, and instituting precautions to be observed in cases where members should remove from one local church to another fill up the balance of the space (vv. 81-84).
Whoever will be at pains to compare the institution whose outlines are set forth in the document which has been above discussed must be impressed by the many and wide differences that exist between the original model and the particular shape which Mormonism assumed a few years later.
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At the close of the first conference, Joseph found that his mind was still afflicted with a burden of uncertainty touching the spiritual condition of Joseph Knight, Sen. His conversion was a concern of the first importance byreason of his generous supply of worldly gear, every groat of which was in urgent demand to fulfill the exigencies of the case as they then existed.
Accordingly Mr. Smith decided to set his hand once more to the work at Colesville, which
His success was equal to his hopes; nearly every member of the Knight family was secured, and Joseph also had
Here was an undeniable triumph; it excited a deal of opposition which, as soon as Joseph had surmounted and outwitted, he made his way back to Harmony
where he is believed to have showed himself again shortly after the beginning of July 1830. It is likely that his lieutenant Cowdery accompanied Joseph and Emma on this journey, since his name is mentioned in a revelation that was imparted at Harmony in July (D&C, Sect. 24). John Whitmer may likewise have been a member of the party (D&C, Sect. 26); he remained throughout the month of July, and was found in Joseph's house at the beginning of August, when Newel Knight and his wife came over from Colesville to visit the prophet (Scraps of Biography, p. 62). Mr. Smith's excellent Yankee wit obtained a special revelation for the purpose of utilizing the leisure of Whitmer and Cowdery, by putting them to work at farm labor where they might have an opportunity to earn their keeping (D&C, Sect. 26:1).
During the visit of Newel Knight and his wife it was decided to observe the Lord's Supper, but the party of five were encountered by the difficulty that Mr. Smith had no wine in the house; it is probable that he also had just as little money or credit. The manner in which he evaded this obstacle exhibits another admirable triumph of Yankee shrewdness. According to his wont he resorted to revelation; a heavenly messenger came down and conveyed to him the first four verses of Section 27 of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. By this deliverance he was given to understand that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, when ye shall partake of the sacrament, if so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory," It was further enjoined
that the saints should not "purchase wine, neither strong drink from their enemies." The exegetical support of these conclusions is a singular freak of literalism. At the institution of this observance the Saviour had declared, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my father's kingdom."
After this occasion Joseph remained quietly at Harmony until near the close of August 1830; Sunday the 29th day of the month finds him with his wife and several other fellow-travelers again at Colesville on his way to the second conference of the "Church of Christ" which had been appointed to be holden at the house of the Whitmers in Fayette, the earliest Constitution and Discipline having provided that "the several elders, composing this church are to meet in conference once in three months, or from time to time as said conference shall direct or appoint (D&C, 20:61).
Perils and perversity such as he had not previously been made familiar with, awaited Mr. Smith at this conference his success and satisfaction in the issue were complete. Naturally he thereby acquired an access of confidence in his powers and his future, and decides on the strength of it to quit Pennsylvania and to cast himself unreservedly upon the enthusiasm of his supporters.
A brief glimpse of him may be had in Manchester towards the close of September; but as matters now stood there was no right repose for Joseph in Ontario county. On the first of October, he finds his way to Macedon, a township in the adjoining county of Wayne (Joseph Smith, p. 168), where he could be out of the way of the magistrates and constables of Ontario, and find shelter in the house of Ziba Peterson, or of his brother-in-law Calvin Stoddard (Tucker, p. 3). Possibly he desired to obtain the consent of the former to be a member of the famous mission to the Lamanites, to which honor he was in a few days assigned by the voice of revelation (D&C, Sect. 32). All the male members of the Smith family who had arrived at years of legal accountability. with the possible exception of Samuel Harrison (Joseph Smith, pp. 173-174), were liable to be harried by the civil officers, and as imprisonment for debt was still in vogue (Joseph Smith, p. 170 note), it was worth the pains of the prophet to keep out of harm's way. (Joseph Smith, pp. 168-175).
The month of September had been made signal by the accession of Thomas B. Marsh, who appears to have been a physician of some kind (D&C 31:10), and a character of a fair degree of respectability.
He afterwards rose to the position of President of the Twelve Apostles. In October came Ezra Thayer of Brighton township (Tucker, p.38) in Monroe county, and Northrop Sweet (D&C, Sect. 33).
Shortly after the departure of the mission to the Lamanites, consisting of Oliver Cowdery, Parley Parker Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jun., and Ziba Peterson, Mr. Smith went over to Pennsylvania to procure his slender household effects. He brought them away in good order and comfortably settled himself in Fayette (Joseph Smith, p.178) about the close of the month of October.
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The dangers which befell Mr. Smith during the period of seven months immediately following the organization of the "Church of Christ," were of both the external and internal sort. The former were of a mild and amusing type; the internal perils were very serious.
The earliest external trouble showed itself at Colesville in the month of June 1830, just at the heels of Joseph's success in perverting the Knight family. On a Saturday afternoon, of the 26th of the month, the Mormons had given themselves the pains to erect a temporary dam across a small stream that lay not far away, where they intended to immerse the parties who should apply for that purpose at the services which should be held in the house of Mr. Knight on the next morning. Their surprise was sufficiently painful on awaking to find that the dam had been torn away overnight; the ceremony was postponed for lack of water. After midnight, however the breach was repaired and the structure was kept under guard until such an hour on Monday as the observance could be decently performed. (Newel Knight, as above, pp. 53-55).
Before it was duly completed adversaries began to collect, and when the worshippers had retired from the water they were followed to the house of Mr. Knight with what us claimed to
have been a show of violence , but no actual interruption was experienced until the evening of Monday, when a meeting had assembled to lay hands of confirmation upon the new converts. Just as they were on the point of proceeding, Joseph was arrested by a constable who wanted him at South Bainbridge, Chenango county, a distance of fifteen miles away, under a charge of disorderly conduct (Life of Joseph, by Tullidge, pp. 35-36). The warrant had been sworn out by a young man of the Presbyterian persuasion, of the name of Benton, (Newel Knight, as above, p. 61).
South Bainbridge was the home of Stowel, and Mr. Benton may have been familiar enough with Smith's misdeeds in that portion of the country, to believe that it would be in his power to send him to prison for a brief season, and by that means to frighten him away from the scene of his present evangelistic successes. It was clearly a malicious proceeding, undertaken for the purpose of getting quit of the presence of the prophet.
Next morning a court magistrate a magistrate's court was convened to try the prisoner on the charge that was given in the warrant. Joseph Knight, Sen., being thoroughly aroused by this indignity to the Lord's anointed had engaged the services and the interest of a couple of his neighbors -- Messrs. Davison and Reed -- substantial farmers, who liked their friends to fancy that they were as much at home in questions of jurisprudence as any lawyer could be. These followed the prisoner to South Bainbridge and managed his cause (Newel Knight, as above, p. 56) with such rude skill as they could bring to bear.
Mr. Stowel was brought forward to testify against the prophet. This excellent old German had been sadly outwitted by Mr. Smith. During the past winter, being in sore need of money to make the frequent journeys to New York that were required of him, Joseph had contrived to get possession of one of Stowel's horses, in consideration for which he appears to have given a note of hand which it is likely was to be discharged out of the profits accruing from the sale of the Book of Mormon. Disappointed in the result, it is presumed the stupid old fellow had been expressing his mind somewhat freely against Joseph. The plaintiff evidently believed that if he could induce Stowel to talk, it would be easy for him to carry the judgment of the court.
But Stowel was now sensible that he had been shrewdly overreached; naturally he was not eager that too much light should fall on the transaction; consequently he denied that there was anything irregular in what had transpired between Smith and himself, thereby disappointing the expectations of those who had called him to supply his testimony.
Mr. Jonathan Thompson, another first class simpleton of South Bainbridge, was in the same case
As a last resource it was remembered that the daughters of Mr. Stowel had been expressing to their intimate friends in the village a amount of disgust at certain gallantries with which the very gallant prophet had approached them; but the idea that these matters should be displayed before a court of justice was something more [formal] than had entered their minds. Accordingly when they were asked to enter the witness stand it was natural that they should keep their own counsels, (Newel Knight, as above, p. 57). In short, notwithstanding every exertion Mr. Smith was acquitted of the charge that had been laid to his credit.
The blood of his adversaries was now up, and foreseeing that the present proceedings would not end in a conviction, they had timely sent back to Broome county whence they brought the prisoner, to obtain a fresh warrant covering his misdeeds in that bailiwick. At the moment of his release he was again arrested and carried to Colesville. Here competent legal talent was engaged to meet the couple of old farmers who had brought away the prisoner with so much triumph from the encounter at South Bainbridge; Messrs. Seymour and Burch, both of the Presbyterian church, were retained as counsel for the prosecution.
The main subject of the second indictment was the manipulation of Joseph in his dealing with Newel Knight. That person had fallen into a religious ecstasy such as might then be anywhere seen, and was very common to the overwrought enthusiasm of the Mormons, (Howe, p. 189). Joseph had succeeded in the comparatively easy task of reducing Newel to reason.
but gave out that he had performed the miracle of casting the devil out of his friend. This was seized upon as a case of false pretense, but when Knight was asked to testify he sustained Mr. Smith's version with much enthusiasm, and the prosecution was ignominiously defeated (Tullidge, pp. 87-89).
Taking his wife Emma, Joseph soon quitted Colesville, for his home in Pennsylvania (Tullidge, p. 89). The fact that the latter had given in her adhesion to the new church and submitted to its baptism, was not kindly received by her kindred and friends; Newel Knight reports that a "spirit of persecution began to manifest itself in the neighborhood where Joseph lived, which was commenced by a man of the Methodist persuasion who professed to be a minister of God. And so crafty was he that he succeeded in influencing Mr. Hale, father-in-law to Joseph, so that he would no longer give him protection, although he had promised to do so" (Newel Knight, as above, p. 63). The gentleman here pointed at, it is presumed, was the Rev. Nathaniel C. Lewis, a presiding elder in the Methodist church, and a relative of the Hale family (Howe, p. 266-267). Mr. Smith was in a situation to meet all the efforts of her family to win Emma from his bosom, by means of his usual expedient of a revelation (D&C, Sect. 25). In this document, which was directed expressly to the recalcitrant Emma, he consoled her disappointment at being refused a sight of the "plates;" appointed her to the position of scribe to his holiness; promised her
the grace of ordination "to expound scriptures and to exhort the church;" quieted her instant fears that she might be brought to suffering for lack of the necessaries of existence, and commissioned her to compile a body of hymns for the use of the saints. She appears to have been content with the pretended divine message, and ever afterwards remained firmly attached to her husband's fortunes.
The only other perils of an external sort to which Smith was exposed in this period resulted from the fact that he was considerably involved in debt,
On the other hand, those perils which came to Joseph from the ranks of his own most trusted followers were of a somewhat alarming kind. These were displayed at the second conference if the "Church of Christ" on the first of September 1830.
It was all about the matter of inspiration and revelation. The Book of Mormon had not indicated any kind of favoritism, but frankly declared that miracles have ceased for no other reason than because faith was dead (Moroni 10:24). If, therefore, by any chance the faith of ancient times should be revived, these would again appear. and subjects of this grace would be able to speak with tongues, heal the sick, obtain revelations, or achieve any other distinction in the entire list of divine manifestations. The supporters of Joseph had firmly convinced their hearts that the Lord had come down to dwell among them, and that even the meanest of their number might hope to be endowed with special visions of his glory, and of future days and things.
No conclusion could have been more rational from their point of view; there was nothing in the Book of Mormon or in the teaching that had hitherto been imparted, by which they might unquestionably gather the notion that revelation and inspiration were to be exclusive perquisites of Mr. Smith. The average Mormon intellect has often rebelled against that glaring inconsistency, and on various occasions persons have risen up to dispute the unrighteous monopoly
which Joseph established. The first instance of this kind occurs in the case of Oliver Cowdery. Having come to Fayette in advance of Joseph, Oliver had found time to give his thoughts to visions and revelations of the Lord, without dreaming that he was poaching upon the preserves of his chief. It was Mr. Cowdery's notion, that in the new dispensation every believer might enjoy the privileges of direct communication with the head of the church in this way.
The conduct of Mr. Cowdery was not without a degree of influence: Hiram Page, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon was likewise following in his footsteps. Page was a botanic physician of the baser sort, who had married a daughter of Peter Whitmer, Sen. (Dickinson, New Light, p. 250). He did not enjoy the advantages of direct communication with the inmate of the Holy of Holies, but he had found a certain stone which displayed excellent mysteries to his vision. This stone was not employed in quite the same way as Joseph had made use of his "seer stone;" on the contrary it had the quality of exhibiting upon its surface the characters of the particular divine communication which the Lord had in mind to convey, but as soon as a copy had been obtained, these immediately disappeared to make room for others (Ezra Booth, in Howe, pp. 215-216).
New Knight affirms at the moment of his own arrival from Colesville, Dr. Page had "quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the church were led astray by them," and adds
that "Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did, and he spent the greater part of the night in prayer and supplication" (Newel Knight, as above, pp. 64-65).
Mr. Smith had every kind of reason for grave concern; a rivalry of this color amounted to an attack from the rear and the flank. If that tendency were suffered to proceed unchecked it would not be many days before every person in the "Church of Christ" would be favored with revelations that would be just as voluminous as his own and of equal authority; the entire movement would be dissolved into atoms, and reduced to a laughing-stock.
He was swift to strike; before the conference had assembled a revelation was obtained to meet the emergency, in which Oliver was forbidden to quit the ground until the close of the conference, and Joseph was distinctly appointed to preside over its deliberations (D&C, 28:10). This was exceedingly well conceived: Oliver must hear the voice of his brethren, whether it liked him or not, and Mr. Smith was assigned to the chief dignity among them.
In further dealing with Oliver, the revelation stipulated that he should enjoy no independent power; he was to teach nothing but the revelations and commandments which had been conveyed through his chief: "Behold, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church, excepting my servant Joseph, Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses; and thou
shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations with power and authority unto the church" (D&C 28:2-3).
Perceiving that the above was a balder showing of his own arrogance than was likely to suit the existing temper of Oliver, or of the other members of the community, Mr. Smith is careful in the next place to modify his position by the following concession" "And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or to teach -- or at all times -- by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it. But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom" (D&C, 28:4-5). In other words, if the Holy Spirit gives thee a revelation, thou art empowered to deliver it by word of mouth, but as soon as it shall be committed to writing then it loses its inspired character, and becomes nothing better than a mere "word of wisdom," such as any person is in a situation to pronounce, without divine assistance.
Whoever will give himself the pains to consider in detail the method of Joseph's dealing with Oliver in this emergency will not fail to perceive the ingenuity and the force of a great leader of men; the same qualities are here exhibited here which subsequently carried him
Very happily for Joseph just a few days before he entered Fayette on this visit, Mr. Parley P. Pratt had come from Ohio and received baptism at the hands of Cowdery. It is probable that Mr. Pratt had much to communicate regarding Sidney and the progress of the cause in the Western Reserve. He appears to have conveyed a message from Rigdon setting forth the necessity for assistance
Even at this early period the benefits of distant missions to heads that chanced to be getting too warm at home was clearly perceived. Whoever will give himself the pains to consider in detail the method of Joseph's dealing with Oliver in this emergency will not be at a loss to perceive the force and ingenuity of a superior leader of men; the same qualities are here exhibited which subsequently carried him
in triumph over many another obstacle of equal significance and peril.
To bring Dr. Page to terms was a lighter enterprise; he was not in the order of succession; the sentiments he had laid down in his lucubrations had very little smell of the Book of Mormon upon them (Tullidge, p. 91). Accordingly Joseph merely enjoins Mr. Cowdery: "And again, thou shalt ask thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone, are not of me, and that Satan deceiveth him."
In later years when Mr. Smith was composing his Autobiography he found it desirable as much as possible to cover up the fault of Oliver in this occurrence, and therefore allows himself to speak as if Dr. Page was the only offender; but the revelation that was had upon the spot shows that Oliver was the chief criminal and that Page was only walking in his footsteps (compare also Howe, p. 214).
When the conference assembled on the first of September, Mr. Smith was able to induce them to act upon the basis of the above revelation (Tullidge, p. 93). It was now in order to take the Whitmer brothers in hand, who had been clearly of a disposition to accept the pretensions of Oliver and of their brother-in-law, Dr. Page. This enterprise was accomplished in another revelation
Newel Knight reports that besides the revelation by which Oliver and Page were overset, three others were given during this conference (Newel Knight, as above, p. 65). One of these, directed against the Whitmers, has just now been cited; the other two were in the nature of theological treatises and may be read in D&C, Sect. 29 and D&C, Sect. 27:5-18.
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The material considered in this chapter embraces all that portion of the revelations of Mr. Smith which precedes the month of November 1830, the date at which Rigdon signified his public and formal adhesion to Mormon tenets, and became the daily counselor of the ostensible leader of the cause. The task of Joseph in these deliverances was to observe as narrowly as possible the type of doctrine that had been exhibited in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Doctrine and Covenants -- after due regard to the exceptions that shall be signified in the period that succeeds the one to which attention is now distracted -- was chiefly intended to supply a sort of practical commentary and explanation of the Book of Mormon.
During the season of more than two years which elapsed between the months of July 1828, and November 1830, in which Joseph was playing the prophet without the advantages of an immediate prompter, it must be allowed that he executed his functions with considerable dexterity. He had studied the Book of Mormon with industry, and was very docile to the suggestions which Sidney found occasion to offer from time to time. It will not be amiss to recount such proofs of the correctness of this assertion as are laid down in the first 34 Sections of Mr. Orson Pratt's edition of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
church in its collective capacity, and likewise for the individual members who should compose its body. The Church in its collective capacity was called the "Church of Christ" (title of Sec. 18 and Sect. 20, 1, 61,68,81): individual believers were to be designated as "Christians" (D&C, 13:21-25). Their zeal had not yet made them sufficiently regardless of the claims of decent public sentiment to arrogate to themselves the title of "Saints," to say nothing of "Latter-day Saints."
Although he was considerably a Methodist in his sentiments, Mr. Smith in deference to the Disciples scruples of Sidney, consented to surrender the practice of infant baptism (D&C, 18:42); it should not be taken amiss if he compensated his disappointment by directing that the children should be brought forward for the purpose of consecration by having the hands of the minister laid upon them (D&C, 20:70-71).
This Methodist prophet also accepted the practice of immersion without a murmur from his Disciple Mentor (D&C, 20:72-74); and the Disciple hobby of a weekly communion at the Lord's Supper (D&C, 20:75). He was equally obsequious concerning the point of Disciple practice that every concern of church business should be decided by the vote of all the members of the church (D&C, 20:63; 26:2), thereby introducing into Mormonism the element of democracy of which the advocates of that system are now so vainly boastful. It was perhaps more natural for a Methodist prophet to fall in with Sidney's and Walter Scott's extravagant notions with reference to the Millennium (D&C, 29:9-23,34:7-11).
Turning now to certain features in which Mr. Smith diverged from the practice of the Disciples, it may be in order to consider first the business of shaking off the dust of the fact as a testimony against those who might be inhospitable. This usage was not unknown among the Disciples of the early period (Williams, Life of Elder John Smith, Cincinnati, 1870, p. 271); but there is no proof on record to the effect that Mr. Rigdon ever observed it, or in any way had inculcated it upon Joseph. On the contrary it is possible that Joseph obtained the notion (D&C, 24:15), in the natural progress of his literalistic craze, from such Biblical passages at Matt. 10:14, Mk. 6:11, and Lu. 9:5. Likewise the injunction "thou shalt take no purse nor scrip, neither staves, neither two coats" (D&C, 24:18), which was religiously observed by early Mormons as the article of a standing or falling church, was not insisted upon among the Disciples as a body. Joseph must have introduced the practice out of regard to the determined literalistic tendency with which he had been inoculated by the Disciples. Of late years the Mormons are said to have surmounted this custom which was so dear and important in the eyes of the founders of their church (Leaves From My Journal, by Pres. Wilford Woodruff, Salt Lake City, 1882. p. 8). The "Perpetual Migration Fund" seems to be so liberally endowed that Mormon missionaries are relieved from the necessity of strictly observing the scriptural command which they were wont to read so clearly at Matt. 10:10 and Luke 10:4.
There are certain other instances of divergence from Disciple practice which may be fairly set down under the head of blunders of inattention.
For example, if Sydney had been in New York at the time he would not have permitted his partner of strong Methodist instincts to have given the Methodist name of "Conference" to the general meetings which were appointed to be held once in three months, (D&C, 20:61,81).
The Methodists had a custom of giving license to certain persons to act in the capacity of "exhorters." In obedience to that well known observance Joseph by a pretended divine revelation commissioned his brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison, and his father, Joseph Smith, Sen., to be "exhorters" in the Mormon community (D&C, 23:3-5). This Methodist faux pas would not have fallen out if Mr. Rigdon had been at the moment in a situation to speak a word in the ear of the inspired teacher.
The Methodists also conceded to the female sex a larger sphere of public religious activity than was customary among many other sects. Even as late as the year 1839, George Eliot was in correspondence with her aunt, Mrs. Samuel Evans, with reference to the labors of the latter in connection with the ecclesiastical charge which she had under her hands. In view of this practice Joseph went so far in July 1830 as to promise that his wife Emma Smith should be "ordained" not merely to "exhort the church," but also to "expound scriptures" (D&C, 25:7). This promise must have been exceedingly distasteful to Mr. Rigdon's Disciple palate. It is not anywhere distinctly declared that Emma ever
had interest enough to obtain the fulfillment of this divinely inspired promise; it is conceivable however, that she was ordained and performed in a [guest] fashion the functions of her station; a few years later it appears that female lecturers were not unheard of among the Mormons. By the testimony of Mrs. (Spaulding) Davison it was a woman preacher who first brought the Book of Mormon to the attention of the people of Conneaut, where Spaulding had once resided and composed a portion of his "Manuscript Found" (Mackay, The Mormons, or Latter Day Saints, p. 37).
It may be presumed that Sidney did what lay in his power speedily to correct this Methodist tendency, and so successful were his endeavors that it was possible for Parley P. Pratt, most likely with entire fidelity to his personal information to declare, in the year 1839, that the "Mormons have not had a female preacher in their connection" (Reynolds, Myth of the "Manuscript Found" p.31).
Still other failures of the youthful prophet may fairly be placed under the category of stupid blunders. Here may be reckoned the wiseacre conclusion that Elias was a totally different character from Elijah, while both are but different scriptural forms of the same name (D&C, 27:6 cf. 27:9). But the credit of steadfastness is due to Mr. Smith in this business; having asserted the existence of a difference he maintained his opinion to the end (D&C, 110:12-15). To Elias was assigned the function of restoring all things (D&C, 27:6), by gathering together
the tribes of Israel (D&C, 77:9,14); to Elijah was assigned the function of "turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers" (D&C, 27:9).
Subsequently a similar mistake was perpetrated in connection with two forms of the same noun in the case of Esaias and Isaiah (D&C, 76:100). Joseph may have enjoyed such a high conceit regarding his acquaintance with the Christian Scriptures that it was beyond the power of Sidney to control him in such points.
Shortly after the date on which Joseph had the happiness to purchase a number of Egyptian mummies from one Michael H. Chandler, and to translate the papyri that belonged with them into the "Gospel of Abraham," (Remy and Brenchley, vol. 2, note XVII), he obtained a revelation in which Elias "appeared and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed, all generations after us should be blessed" (D&C, 110:12); but there was no necessary contradiction between this service on the part of Elias, and the regular services mentioned above which he was expected to fulfill.
In his own private fashion Joseph was an industrious student of the Book of Daniel. At the 9th verse of the 7th chapter of that work he read: "I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was Ancient of Days did sit," and straightway accomplished the splendid discovery that this "Ancient of Days" was Adam on the score that Adam is the first man of whom the Scriptures make any account. He also understood
that Michael "the great prince" who is mentioned [at] Daniel 10:21 and 12:1, was the same person as the "ancient of days" or Adam. Accordingly with a deal of stupid display he discourses in one of his revelations about "Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days" (D&C 27:11). In another passage he alludes to the fact that in the Epistle of Jude, he is designated as "Michael the archangel" (D&C 29:26).
The process by which Adam was enabled to achieve these singular triumphs of promotion is set forth in a revelation that falls after the close of the present period; "Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methusaleh who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity, who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the Prince, the Archangel" (D&C, 107:53-54). On the 19th of May 1838 Mr. Smith had another revelation which sets forth the spot where the "thrones will be placed, and one that is ancient of days will sit" (Daniel 7:10). That place was Spring Hill in Daviess County, Missouri, of which the name was by Joseph changed to "Adam-ondi-Ahman, because it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the ancient of days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet" (D&C, Sect. 116).
An inspired prophet felt constrained to justify his follies; by means of this kind an unspeakably vulgar blunder was perpetuated, On the [6th] of April 1852 Mr. Brigham Young, feeling it to be his privilege farther to develop the nonsense of his predecessor, gravely announced that Adam was the only deity that good Mormons have any call to meddle with (Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints, p. 485). Much silent opposition followed this disclosure, (Stenhouse, as above, p. 202), but it was a case of legitimate progress of doctrine, and the dissatisfied members of the Mormon community had not so much occasion to quarrel with Brigham as with Joseph. The phrase "Adam-ondi-Ahman" may have been understood to signify in plain English "Adam, or God": a supposition which is derived from the fact that the word "Ahman" is declared on the authority of Mr. Orson Pratt "to signify God in the pure language" (D&C 78:20 note); the word "ondi" may also in the same "pure language" signify "or."
Another blunder of Joseph's stupidity occurs in the case of the "ancient gospel," which in Mormon parlance is commonly designated as "the first principles of the gospel." This "ancient gospel," it has been shown, was duly declared to Mr. Smith by "John the Baptist" on the 15th day of May 1829 (D&C, Sect. 13), at which time both himself, Oliver Cowdery and Samuel H. Smith had been "baptized by immersion for the remission of sins." It is more than likely that Sidney in the character of "John the Baptist" employed all his powers to give his colleague a right conception of the terms of this novelty. In the second redaction of the Book of Mormon, which was
then undertaken, for the purpose of bringing the performance into harmony with the views of the Disciples were now proclaiming, Mr. Rigdon had plainly set forth this "ancient gospel" in many different places and contexts. Joseph, with the aid of Oliver, had patiently copied all these interminable lucubrations, and it was to be anticipated that he would have "the first principles of the gospel" at the end of his tongue. But the "ancient gospel" was an exotic in his Methodist brains; he could not readily persuade his mind to accept its truth or importance.
It would be unjust treatment in case Mr. Smith were blamed for proclaiming a different gospel in the revelations he sent forth prior to the 15th of May 1829. For example: "Behold, this is my doctrine, whomsoever repenteth and cometh to me the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church" (D&C, 10:67-68).
But not many days after these words were uttered Mr. Rigdon appeared upon the scene "declaring more than this," and Joseph accepted his testimony and the Disciple's gospel; he ought to have been studious to abide by his new choice. He did not abide by it, but continued to proclaim the Methodist gospel (D&C, 14:8; 15:6; 16:6; 18:12-14). Indeed there is one remarkable case where within the limits of one and the same revelation the prophet proclaims both the Methodist and the Disciple gospel. At Sect. 19:21, addressing Martin Harris, he says: "I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these
things unto the world until it is wisdom in me;" at 19:31 he ordains "of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism and by fire, yea even the Holy Ghost."
In keeping with the custom of the Methodist church at the reception of adults into membership, he also stipulates (D&C, 20:37): "All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received the spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church." Nothing could be farther from the model of the Disciples' practice, who required only the "good confession" that Jesus is the Christ and will not allow that any remission of sins is possible before baptism.
After Sidney got into daily communication with Joseph, and his education had been mended by contact with the Disciples' church at Kirtland there were no more blunders if this nature; the prophet was able to lay down the conditions of the "ancient gospel" in just as glib and correct a fashion as any Disciple authority, not excepting Mr. Campbell himself.
One other point requires to be considered in this place, which was likely not in all senses a blunder. Mr. Smith had obtained his ordination to the Aaronic priesthood at the hands of "John the Baptist" (D&C, Sect. 13, title); his ordination to the Melchisedek priesthood on the other hand was conveyed by his associate Oliver Cowdery, acting under the sanctions of a direct divine revelation to that effect (D&C, 21:10). But just before the meeting of the second conference, on the first of September 1830, the said Oliver had exhibited strong symptoms of insubordination, by which Joseph foresaw that it would not be well that his own supremacy should be in any manner dependent upon the agency of a person upon whom he could not fully rely. Accordingly in one of the revelations that was procured during the progress of that conference Joseph announced that they had also been ordained to the apostleship, or Melchisedek priesthood, by Peter, James and John (D&C, 27:12), who it has been shown had all three remained on the earth since the period of the Lord's ascension (D&C, Sect, 7). If Oliver should deny that the three apostles of the Lamb had laid their hands upon his head, Joseph would be ready with the affirmation that this benefit had been conferred upon himself, and that by the conditions of the case he was necessarily superior to Oliver. Mr. Cowdery therefore elected to keep silence touching the affair with Peter, James and John, although what was said in that connection was clearly in contradiction of the known fact that Joseph had been ordained by Oliver's own hands (D&C 21:10).
By this introduction of Peter, James and John, Mr. Smith also
placed himself on a more advantageous footing with relation to Rigdon. Under the character of "John the Baptist," Sidney had ordained the prophet to the Aaronic priesthood on the 15th of May 1829. This obligation and dependence were a galling yoke, and might be readily changed into an insuperable obstacle in some of the conflicts which it was conceivable he would have to wage with Mr. Rigdon. But Peter, James and John were manifestly above "John the Baptist," and the circumstance that his last ordination came directly from their hands would be a great point in his favor.
The Mormons have vexed their ingenuity not a little to decide at what place and time Peter, James and John appeared to the prophet and bestowed the apostleship upon him (Tullidge, p. 738), but the inquiry is entirely futile, since the occurrence never took place in any form, but was merely pretended by Joseph in order to guard himself against possible embarrassments.
On the 6th of Sept., 1842, Joseph got courage enough to intimate that the incident befell "in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna River" (D&C, 123:20); but this declaration is easily explained. Oliver Cowdery was at that moment in apostasy, and it was undesirable to concede that Peter, James and John had ever had any such confidential relations with a person who was in deep disgrace. Now, at the moment when Mr. Smith was making the above journey to the second conference by way of the Susquehanna river and Colesville, Mr. Cowdery was not of
the party who accompanied him; that person had already preceded his chief to Fayette and was busily engaged in mischief there. The prophet's followers in the year 1842 naturally infer that Peter, James and John had appeared to their leader and had neglected his lieutenant. That however was not the original understanding; this last expedient would never have been heard of if Cowdery had remained steadfast. Hyrum Smith and David Whitmer attended the prophet on this journey (Newel Knight, as above, p.63); but the said David on being questioned about the occurrence replied: "I do not know; Joseph never told me. I can only tell you what I know, for I will not testify to anything I do not know (Tullidge, p.738). It was entirely an afterthought; neither Joseph nor any member of the party dreamed of a meeting with the three apostles on the banks of the Susquehanna.
This ignorant young prophet was a born commander of men; neither Mr. Rigdon nor even Mr. Campbell was his equal in that regard -- not half so fertile in resources, nor so unscrupulous in the choice of them.
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