Part 3: April–September 1830

On 6 April 1830 the Church of Christ was officially established at a meeting at ’s home in , New York. JS’s history recorded: “Having opened the meeting by solemn prayer to our Heavenly Father we proceeded, (according to previous commandment) to call on our brethren to know whether they accepted us as their teachers in the things of the Kingdom of God, and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a Church according to said commandment which we had received. To these they consented by an unanimous vote.” According to JS’s history, the “said commandment” had been given in June 1829, also at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. Obtaining consent of the believers and carrying out other procedures at this organizational meeting fulfilled specific 1829 instructions. As part of the commencement, JS and ordained each other elders and then confirmed previously baptized believers as members of the new church. The small congregation partook of the sacrament, and additional men were ordained “to different offices of the Priesthood.” A revelation dictated just after the meeting stated that JS was to be called “a seer & Translater & Prop[h]et an Apostle of Jesus Christ an Elder of the Church” and instructed Cowdery to ordain him. Cowdery later affirmed that on this date he ordained JS “to be a Prophet, Seer, &c., just as the revelation says.”
JS’s history noted that “several persons” who attended the organizational meeting “got convinced of the truth, came forward shortly after, and were received into the church, among the rest My own and were baptized to my great joy and consolation, and about the same time .” No specific dates are given for these baptisms, however, and although the reminiscent accounts of and imply that the baptisms took place on 6 April near the Smith home in the / area, the two reminiscences are problematic. JS’s history nonetheless allows for the possibility that JS returned to his parents’ home shortly after the organization in . If so, the stay was a short one. JS was probably back in Fayette on 11 April, when preached the first sermon of the church to a large crowd and baptized several people. Also in April, JS visited believers in , New York. Within days of the organizational meeting, therefore, he had visited all three communities with groups of believers, meeting with them and likely informing them of the conference of the church to be held in June.
When JS returned to he apparently faced opposition from residents in the area for the first time. He and other church members, however, “continued to preach and to give information to all who were willing to hear.” On 9 June 1830, at the house of , members gathered for the first conference of the church, where by unanimous vote they approved “Articles and Covenants,” a foundational document outlining the governing beliefs, principles, and offices of the church. JS and then ordained officers and signed licenses signifying their positions within the Church of Christ. Following the June conference JS returned to , Pennsylvania, probably accompanied by Cowdery and . Also in June, JS dictated “a Revelation given to Joseph the Revelator,” which was later known as the “Visions of Moses.” At the end of the month, JS traveled to , where he met with and baptized several believers, even though opponents had the previous night torn down a dam prepared for the baptisms.
The group then gathered at the home of so that JS could confirm them as new members of the church. Before the meeting started, however, Constable Ebenezer Hatch arrested JS on the charge of being “a disorderly person,” for looking in a glass or seer stone. The following morning JS appeared before Joseph P. Chamberlain, justice of the peace in South Bainbridge, New York, who acquitted him of the charge. Despite his acquittal and before he could leave, JS was served with another warrant and taken the ten miles back to , where he appeared before Joel K. Noble and likely two other justices at a court of special sessions. Noble later wrote that JS was “discharged” because “he had not looked in the glass for two years to find money”; the justices also dismissed other charges related to JS’s character. JS’s history stated, “The Court finding the charges against me, not sustained, I was accordingly acquitted, to the great satisfaction of my friends, and vexation of my enemies, who were still determined upon molesting me, but through the instrumentality of my new friend, the Constable; I was enabled to escape them.” After slipping out the back of the courtroom, JS met at , New York, and the two journeyed back to their home in . Only a few days later JS and again attempted to confirm the recently baptized believers in Colesville, but as soon as they arrived, angry residents chased them from the town.
In July, JS dictated three revelations while he and worked on his farm in . By mid-July, Cowdery left Harmony for , where he soon wrote to JS, commanding him to change a verse in the recently approved Articles and Covenants. After a brief exchange of letters, JS traveled to Fayette to resolve the conflict that had expanded to involve the Whitmers. The issue was apparently settled amicably, and JS returned to Harmony.
In early August, and his wife, , visited JS and at , where they all partook of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and the two men confirmed their wives as members of the Church of Christ. To prepare for this meeting JS “set out to go to procure some wine” for the sacrament and was “met by a heavenly messenger” who directed him to use only wine made by church members for the ordinance. JS again returned to by late August to confirm the remainder of the believers baptized in June and July. Those opposing the Church of Christ in Colesville remained antagonistic, and JS stayed only long enough to perform the confirmations. Back in Harmony, JS’s history notes, “a spirit of persecution began again to manifest itself against us in the neighborhood where I now resided,” and this apparently turned his father-in-law, , against him. By early September, JS and Emma moved to to live at the home of
Upon arriving at the Whitmer home, JS learned that “had got in his possession, a certain stone, by which he had obtained to certain revelations” and that and several others believed the revelations to be authentic. Before the members of the church gathered for the second conference, which was held 26 September 1830, JS dictated a revelation declaring that as the head of the church, he was the only authorized individual to whom revelation could be given. The revelation also called Cowdery to preach among the American Indians. At the conference itself, “Brother Joseph Smith jr. was appointd . . . to receive and write Revelations & Commandments for this Church.” After Cowdery read Articles and Covenants aloud, JS gave some remarks, and the meeting proceeded with ordinations, singing, and prayer.
  1. 1

    JS History, vol. A-1, 37. David Whitmer also stated that the church was established at his father’s house in Fayette Township. In its earliest extant version, a 6 April 1830 revelation written just after the organizational meeting likewise identifies Fayette as the location; the revelation became erroneously associated with Manchester Township, New York, when it was first published in 1833. Further confusing the matter, revelations that did originate in Manchester were erroneously associated with 6 April when first published in 1833. The earliest extant copies of these revelations date them only as specifically as “April 1830.” (Whitmer, Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon, 33; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, 6 Apr. 1830 [D&C 21].)  

    Whitmer, David. An Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon. Richmond, MO: No publisher, 1887.

  2. 2

    JS History, vol. A-1, 37.  

  3. 3

    JS History, vol. A-1, 38.  

  4. 4

    Revelation, 6 Apr. 1830 [D&C 21:1, 10].  

  5. 5

    [William E. McLellin], “The Successor of Joseph the Seer,” Ensign of Liberty, Dec. 1847, 42. David Whitmer also stated that a revelation called Cowdery to ordain JS the “‘Prophet Seer and Revelator’ to the church” and that the revelation stated that “the church should receive his words as if from God’s own mouth.” (Whitmer, Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon, 33.)  

    Ensign of Liberty. Kirtland, OH. Mar. 1847–Aug. 1849.

    Whitmer, David. An Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon. Richmond, MO: No publisher, 1887.

  6. 6

    JS History, vol. A-1, 38, italics added.  

  7. 7

    Knight explained that in “the Spring of 1830” he took JS “out to Manchester to his Fathers.” On the way, they encountered Martin Harris, who was carrying several copies of the Book of Mormon and told them “the Books will not sell for no Body wants them.” This likely happened in late March because the Wayne Sentinel announced that the Book of Mormon was available for purchase on 26 March. “I stayd a few Days [at the Smiths’ log home] wating for some Books to Be Bound,” wrote Knight. “Joseph said there must Be a Church Biltup [built up.] I had Ben there several Days[.] old Mr Smith and Martin Harris Come forrod [forward] to Be Babtise[d] for the first[.] they found a place in a Lot a small Stream ran thro and they ware Babtized in the Evening Because of persecution.” This unpolished and disjointed narrative, which several lines later mentions the 6 April 1830 organization of the church, clearly claims that Joseph Smith Sr. and Martin Harris were baptized near the Smith farm in Manchester Township but offers no concrete timeline. In contrast, Lucy Mack Smith specifically stated in her 1845 reminiscence that Joseph Smith Sr. and Martin Harris were baptized on 6 April 1830, implying (but not explicitly stating) that the baptisms took place near the Smith farm. But Lucy did not mention her own baptism (which JS’s history does mention), nor is her account consistent with Knight’s because she said the baptisms took place in the morning and Knight’s earlier and more detailed retelling stated specifically that they took place at night. (Knight, Reminiscences, 6–7; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 169.)  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  8. 8

    JS History, vol. A-1, 39.  

  9. 9

    JS’s history recorded five revelations dictated in the Manchester area, placing them after the organization on 6 April but likely before the 11 April meeting. Documenting that JS was also in Colesville in April, the history further stated, “During this month of april I went on a visit to the residence of Mr Joseph Knight [Sr.], of Colesville, Broom[e] Co N.Y. . . . We held several meetings in the neighbourhood. . . . Our meetings were well attended.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 39; see also Historical Introductions to Revelations, Apr. 1830–A through E [D&C 23].)  

  10. 10

    JS History, vol. A-1, 41.  

  11. 11

    Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20].  

  12. 12

    Minutes, 9 June 1830; License for John Whitmer, License for Joseph Smith Sr., License for Christian Whitmer, 9 June 1830.  

  13. 13

    JS History, vol. A-1, 42.  

  14. 14

    Visions of Moses, June 1830 [Moses 1]. This revelation launched JS’s Bible revision project.  

  15. 15

    JS History, vol. A-1, 44–47; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, July 1830–A [D&C 24].  

  16. 16

    “Mormonism,” Boston Christian Herald, 19 Sept. 1832, [3]. JS’s history stated that the prosecution claimed JS was a “money digger” and that he cast out devils. (JS History, vol. A-1, 46.)  

    Boston Christian Herald. Boston. 1829–1833.

  17. 17

    JS History, vol. A-1, 47.  

  18. 18

    Revelation, July 1830–A [D&C 24]; Revelation, July 1830–B [D&C 26]; Revelation, July 1830–C [D&C 25].  

  19. 19

    JS History, vol. A-1, 50–51; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28]. No copies of the letters between JS and Cowdery have been found, and it is not known whether the letters were extant when this portion of JS’s history was compiled. The history also explained that JS “succeeded in bringing not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery to acknowledge that they had been in error.”  

  20. 20

    JS History, vol. A-1, 51. According to his history, the next month JS added to the text that resulted from this angelic visitation. The earliest known text of this expansion is the published version in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See Historical Introduction to Revelation, ca. Aug. 1830 [D&C 27].)  

  21. 21

    JS History, vol. A-1, 53. Nathaniel Lewis, brother-in-law to Isaac Hale, was likely instrumental in Hale’s change of heart. (See Nathaniel Lewis, Affidavit, 20 Mar. 1834, in “Mormonism,” Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian [Montrose, PA], 1 May 1834, [1].)  

    Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian. Montrose, PA. 1831–1836.

  22. 22

    JS History, vol. A-1, 53.  

  23. 23

    JS History, vol. A-1, 54; see also Historical Introductions to Revelation, Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28]; and to Minutes, 26 Sept. 1830. Newel Knight wrote that Page “had quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the Church were led astray by them. Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them.” (Knight, History, 146.)  

    Knight, Newel. History. Private possession. Copy in CHL. MS 19156.

  24. 24

    Revelation, Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28:2, 8].  

  25. 25

    Minutes, 26 Sept. 1830.