Part 5: February–June 1831

A JS revelation in late December 1830 and another in early January 1831 altered the geography of the new religion by directing that all church members in gather in . The New York branches quickly began preparations for a mass exodus. Many of the believers sacrificed substantial assets and valuable land in New York as they sought to obey the revelation in anticipation of the prophesied blessings, especially the promise to be “endowed with power from on high.” JS and left for , Ohio, in late January 1831 along with and , two Ohio residents who had traveled to New York to meet JS a month earlier. The group reached Kirtland around the first of February, having stopped to preach and to visit believers on their way.
On 4 February, the church’s elders were promised by revelation, “By the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law that ye may know how to govern my Church.” Accordingly, on 9 February twelve elders “united in mighty prayer” and JS dictated a revelation subsequently titled “The Laws of the Church of Christ.” Several other revelations before the end of June 1831 addressed problems challenging church members as the and believers gathered together in the area around . The revelations addressed the gathering, church leadership, missionary work, communal living, and controversies surrounding expressions of spiritual exuberance. The latter was a recurring problem, and JS dictated a number of revelations that attempted to provide a template for understanding the difference between proper and improper spiritual manifestations. In May 1831, a revelation called for missionary efforts to be directed toward the Shaker community located near Kirtland. Though that attempt proved futile, the membership of the church in Ohio continued to grow through migration and conversion.
Meanwhile, and his missionary companions attempted to teach the Shawnee and Delaware Indians in the territory immediately west of . Though they reported that their initial teaching was well received by some of the Indians, a federal Indian agent forced them to suspend their teaching and ordered them to leave tribal lands until they had a proper permit. In response, Cowdery wrote a letter to William Clark, superintendent of Indian affairs, seeking official sanction for their endeavors and dispatched to counsel with JS on the matter. Cowdery and the others stayed in , Missouri, where they baptized a few converts as they awaited further instructions from and an anticipated federal authorization to resume preaching among the Indians.
In addition to being commissioned to preach, and his companions had been charged to “rear up a pillar as a witness where the Temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New-Jerusalem,” even though the precise location of the prophesied city had not yet been identified. A month after his arrival in , JS dictated a revelation in which the voice of the Lord declared: “Gether ye out from the Eastern lands assemble ye yourselves together ye Elders of my Church ge [go] ye forth into the western countries call upon the inhabitants to repent & in as much as they do repent build up Churches unto me & with one heart & with one mind gether up your riches that you may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed you & it shall be called the New Jerusalem a land of peace a City of refuge a place of safety for the saints of The most high God & the glory of the Lord shall be there.” The expectation of an impending establishment of the New Jerusalem in the West informed many of the actions taken and documents created during these early months in .
By late spring 1831, nearly all the members of the church had moved to and joined together with the growing number of Ohio converts. In early June, most of the elders of the church met at a conference in , during which many received the “high priesthood,” and shortly thereafter, on 6 June, JS dictated a revelation calling over two dozen men to leave on proselytizing missions. Most, including JS and , were called to in anticipation of a conference to be held there with and his missionary companions. The final documents in this section were created in the context of this imminent departure to Missouri.
  1. 1

    Revelation, 30 Dec. 1830 [D&C 37:3]; Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38:32].  

  2. 2

    Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38:32].  

  3. 3

    JS History, vol. A-1, 92; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 10, [7]; Waterloo, NY, 26 Jan. [1831], Letter to the Editor, Reflector (Palmyra, NY), 1 Feb. 1831, 95.  

    Reflector. Palmyra, NY. 1821–1831.

  4. 4

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 10, [8]; JS History, vol. A-1, 92; [Matthew S. Clapp], “Mormonism,” Painesville (OH) Telegraph, 15 Feb. 1831, [1] –[2].  

    Painesville Telegraph. Painesville, OH. 1822–1986.

  5. 5

    Revelation, 4 Feb. 1831 [D&C 41:3].  

  6. 6

    Whitmer, History, 12; JS History, vol. A-1, 95; Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–72].  

  7. 7

    Revelation, 7 May 1831 [D&C 49].  

  8. 8

    Oliver Cowdery, Independence, MO, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 14 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, p. 103; Pratt, Autobiography, 61.  

    U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency. Records, 1807–1855. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Also available at kansasmemory.org.

    Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.

  9. 9

    Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831; see also Oliver Cowdery, Independence, MO, to the Church in Ohio, 29 Jan. 1831, in Letter to Hyrum Smith, 3–4 Mar. 1831; and Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 7 May 1831.  

  10. 10

    Covenant of Oliver Cowdery and Others, 17 Oct. 1830. Evidence indicates that Cowdery was uncertain where the prophesied city of Zion would be built as well as where the missionaries should direct their labors in preaching to the Indians. Indian agent Richard W. Cummins wrote his supervisor, William Clark, informing him that the Mormons told him that if Clark refused the Mormon preachers’ request to proselytize in the territory immediately west of Missouri, they would “go to the Rocky Mountains, but what they will be with the Indians.” A letter written by Thomas B. Marsh in early April 1831 conveyed a similar uncertainty as to the ultimate location of the city of Zion and similarly referenced both Missouri and the Rocky Mountains as potential locations for the city. Despite his uncertainty, Marsh affirmed, “But this we know a City will be built in the promised Land.” (Richard W. Cummins, Delaware and Shawnee Agency, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 15 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, p. 114; Thomas B. Marsh and Elizabeth Godkin Marsh to Lewis Abbott and Ann Marsh Abbott, [ca. 11 Apr. 1831], Abbott Family Collection, CHL.)  

    U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency. Records, 1807–1855. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Also available at kansasmemory.org.

    Abbott Family Collection, 1831–2000. CHL. MS 23457.

  11. 11

    Revelation, ca. 7 Mar. 1831 [D&C 45:64–67].  

  12. 12

    Minutes, ca. 3–4 June 1831.  

  13. 13

    Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:2–3].