License for John Whitmer, 9 June 1830
“A License Liberty Power & Authority,” License,Fayette Township, Seneca Co., NY, for
Located in northern part of county between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. Area settled, by 1790. Officially organized as Washington Township, 14 Mar. 1800. Name changed to Fayette, 6 Apr. 1808. Population in 1830 about 3,200. Population in 1840 about 3,700. Significant...More InfoJohn Whitmer, 9 June 1830; handwriting of
27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...View Full BioOliver Cowdery; signatures of JS and
3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...View Full BioSingle leaf measuring 6⅞–7¼ × 7¾ inches (17–18 × 20 cm) with irregular tear along the bottom of the document. Docket on verso in handwriting ofJohn Whitmer: “John Whitmer | Lisence”. Under this is a mostly illegible pencil notation: “Sa◊◊◊◊ ◊◊◊◊ ◊◊ | ◊◊St ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊”. Additional notation in pencil: “◊◊◊◊◊◊”. Beneath that is a “YALE” stamp in dark ink. And along the bottom verso, a docket in handwriting of John Whitmer, “
27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...View Full BioWilliam E. Benjamin, a New York autograph and rare book collector and dealer,1likely obtained the license circa late 1899 from Whitmer family member George Schweich when Benjamin obtained the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
Dickinson, Donald C. Dictionary of American Antiquarian Bookdealers. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998.2William R. Coe obtained the document by the early 1950s at the latest, after which the Coe collection was obtained by the Beinecke Library at Yale University.
Riley, I. Woodbridge. The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1902.
New York Times. New York City. 1857–.
Schweich, George. Letter, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900. Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan.3
Withington, Mary C., comp. A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana Founded by William Robertson Coe, Yale University Library. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952.
- 1 Dickinson, Dictionary of American Antiquarian Bookdealers, 13–14.
- 2 Riley, Founder of Mormonism, 80n5, 100n59. The New York Times indicated the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon was “kept in a bank vault in this town.” On 17 January 1900, Schweich wrote to O. R. Beardsley telling him that the manuscript was with Benjamin in New York. (“The Book of Mormon,” New York Times, 21 Sept. 1899, 9; George Schweich, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900, Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan.)
- 3 See Withington, Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana, 32.
A document certifying an individual’s office in the church and authorizing him “to perform the duty of his calling.” The “Articles and Covenants” of the church implied that only elders could issue licenses; individuals ordained by a priest to an office in...View GlossaryJohn Whitmerwas an “
27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...View Full BioApostleof Jesus Christ[,] an
A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...View GlossaryElderof this
A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...View GlossaryChurch of Christ.” It was penned by
The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...View GlossaryOliver Cowderyat the firstconferenceof the church on 9 June 1830Articles and Covenants,” which was formally accepted by church members at this conference, the newly founded Church of Christ issued certificates to
A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...View Glossaryordainedmembers as a public proclamation of their affiliation with and ordination in the church.
The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...View Glossary2Whitmer received his license along with four other elders, three
The Baptist Encyclopedia. A Dictionary of the Doctrines, Ordinances, Usages, Confessions of Faith, Sufferings, Labors, and Successes, and of the General History of the Baptist Denomination in All Lands. With Numerous Biographical Sketches of Distinguished American and Foreign Baptists, and a Supplement. Edited by William Cathcart. Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881.priests, and two
An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. In the Book of Mormon, priests were described as those who baptized, administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church,” and taught “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” A June 1829 revelation directed...View Glossaryteachers.Joseph Smith Sr., and Christian Whitmer—are extant. This apparently initiated the practice of issuing licenses for men holding offices in the church.
Generally, one who instructs, but also an ecclesiastical and priesthood office. The Book of Mormon explained that teachers were to be ordained “to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end...View GlossaryThe Church of Christ had been established two months earlier, on 6 April 1830.David Whitmerstated that “the church was called together and the
7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...View Full Bioeldersacknowledged according to the laws of
A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...View GlossaryNew York,”
Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...More Info5and though no documents of incorporation for the church survive, the procedure followed at the organizational meeting and the wording of these certificates seem to reflect the language and spirit of an 1813 New York law for the “incorporation of religious societies.”
Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.6Whether the church was formally incorporated or not,
Laws of the State of New-York, Revised and Passed at the Thirty-Sixth Session of the Legislature, With Marginal Notes and References. 2 Vols. Albany: H. C. Southwick and Company, 1813.
Stott, David Keith. “Legal Insights into the Organization of the Church in 1830.” BYU Studies 49, no. 2 (2010): 121–148.The license forbaptizedaccording to the “Articles & Covenants,” the church’s founding document, and ordained by JS. The license also declared that Whitmer was both an apostle and an elder. The title “apostle,” however, was later crossed out. Though it is unknown when the redaction was made, it may have been made after
An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...View Glossarytwelve apostleswere called in 1835 and might thus have been an attempt to reinterpret the license’s meaning in hindsight. Even though a June 1829 revelation foreshadowed the calling of twelve “disciples,”
Members of a governing body in the church, with special administrative and proselytizing responsibilities. A June 1829 revelation commanded Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to call twelve disciples, similar to the twelve apostles in the New Testament and ...View Glossaryordainedto a specific office with the title “apostle.” No one was described as an apostle in official records in this period, including the early minutes of church
The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...View Glossaryconferences, which typically listed the office of each male attendee. John Whitmer himself kept many of these records as the first church historian and also wrote a personal daybook after 1832, but he gave himself other titles in these writings and never called himself an apostle.
A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...View Glossary8Nonetheless, when John Whitmer was sent toOhioin January 1831,
French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...More InfoSidney Rigdonsent him with a letter that read, “Receive him, for he is a brother greatly beloved, and an Apostle of this church,”
19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...View Full Bio9which again likely referred to Whitmer’s role as a messenger and preacher rather than to an ecclesiastical office.
Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.The use of the term elder and the office itself were also developing as the Church of Christ grew. The Book of Mormon described the offices of teacher, priest, anddisciple, and by June 1829
Generally, a follower of Jesus Christ, and in certain cases, one selected to lead the ministry. In the New Testament, Christ ordained twelve of his disciples as apostles. The Book of Mormon recounted that during his ministry to the Nephites, Christ similarly...View GlossaryOliver Cowderydrew from these accounts to create a list of duties for each in his “Articles of the Church of Christ.”10Articles and Covenants, approved by the church on 9 June 1830, similarly described these offices but provided more detail, and also included the office of elder.
Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ, By A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.
- 1 See Historical Introduction to Minutes, 9 June 1830.
- 2 Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:63–64]. Other religious societies had a similar practice; compare, for instance, these licenses to those issued by Baptists, as illustrated in “License, A Form of,” in Baptist Encyclopedia, 701.
- 3 Minutes, 9 June 1830.
- 4 On the formalization of licensing procedures, see Cannon, “Licensing in the Early Church,” 96–105.
- 5 “Mormonism,” Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, 1.
- 6 Although no extant documents demonstrate that the Church of Christ was legally established on 6 April 1830, religious societies were not required under New York law to undergo formal incorporation in order to be officially recognized. (An Act to Provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies [5 Apr. 1813], Laws of the State of New-York , vol. 2, pp. 212–219; see also Stott, “Legal Insights into the Organization of the Church in 1830,” 122–132.)
- 7 Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:26–27].
- 8 See Whitmer, History, 1–96; Whitmer, Daybook, 1832–1878. Soon after he was given this license, John Whitmer signed the certificates of Newel Knight as an elder (in the summer of 1830) and William Smith as a teacher (on 5 October 1831). Both certificates specified that Whitmer was an “Elder.” (Knight, History, 2313; License for William Smith, 5 Oct. 1831.)
- 9 Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 110.
- 10 See “Articles of the Church of Christ,” June 1829; see also Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 32.
- 11 Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:38–59].
- 12 See, for example, Minutes, 9 June 1830; Minutes, 26 Sept. 1830; and Minutes, ca. 3–4 June 1831. An elder’s duties were to “baptize and to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, and to administer the flesh and blood of Christ according to the scriptures, and to teach, expound, and exhort, and to baptize and to watch over the church, and to confirm the church by the laying on of hands and the giving of the Holy Ghost, and to take the lead of all meetings, &c. The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost.” (Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:38–45].)