Part 1: Missouri, Summer 1831

Much of JS’s time in the summer of 1831 was spent in founding the in , Missouri. In June 1831, a revelation directed JS and other church to go to , where the Lord had promised to reveal to JS and “the land of [their] ” if they remained faithful. To fulfill this directive, JS, Rigdon, , , , , and and Elizabeth Van Benthusen Gilbert departed , Ohio, on 19 June 1831. The group split at , Missouri; Rigdon and the Gilberts traveled by water the rest of the way, while JS, Harris, Partridge, Phelps, and Coe proceeded on foot. JS and his company arrived in , Jackson County, Missouri, on 14 July, and Rigdon and the Gilberts came the following week. Eventually, more than two dozen elders made the journey from to Missouri that summer. Some stayed in Missouri thereafter, while others returned to Ohio.
While in , JS dictated several revelations and transacted several items of business. On 20 July, a revelation declared that Missouri was the land of and that was the “centre place” at which the would be constructed. That same revelation identified the spot where JS and the Saints were to construct a . In the ensuing days, JS and other church leaders followed directions in the 20 July revelation— and in other revelations from that summer in Missouri—to dedicate the land for the building of the city of Zion, to dedicate the temple site, and to hold a with the elders who had traveled to Zion. A 1 August 1831 revelation specified that was to “ & dedicate this land & the spot of the temple unto the Lord.” Accordingly, on 2 August, “the land of Zion was consecrated and dedicated for the gathering of the Saints by Elder Rigdon.” That same day, JS “assisted the of the church to lay the first log for a house as a foundation of Zion, in ,” twelve miles west of Independence. On 3 August, just west of Independence, a group of eight elders, including JS, “assembled together where the temple is to be erected.” later recorded that on that spot, Rigdon “dedicated the ground where the city is to Stand: and Joseph Smith Jr. laid a stone at the North east corner of the contemplated Temple in the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth.” Rigdon then “pronounced this Spot of ground wholy dedicated unto the Lord forever.” The next day, JS held a conference with fourteen elders and thirty-one other church members in Kaw Township, during which they partook of the . In subsequent days, he attended the funeral of , the wife of his close friend , and dictated revelations outlining procedures for the establishment of Zion and for the gathering of the elect.
The 1 August revelation directed that JS and should return to following the conference to “accomplish the residue of the work” that the Lord had “appointed unto them.” This included working on the , or revision, of the Bible that JS had commenced in 1830. On 9 August 1831, JS and a group of elders began the journey back to Ohio. JS traveled mainly with Rigdon and after a revelation instructed them to travel to by way of ; they reached Kirtland on 27 August 1831. Upon his return, JS discovered that “in the absence of the Elders many apostitized,” requiring him to give “much exortation” to the congregations in Ohio. Because some church members, including several who had visited , had engaged in conduct that required discipline, JS participated in conferences in early September that attended to disciplinary matters.
At the time, procedures for church discipline were not well established. In February 1831, a revelation outlined “the rules and regulations of the Law” to be followed when individuals committed various offenses, including murder, theft, lying, adultery, and offending other members. In some of these cases, including adultery and giving offense, the guilty party was required to confess his or her sins to gain forgiveness; those unwilling to confess were brought before “two Elders of the Church or more and every word shall be established against him by two witnesses of the Church.” The elders were to then “lay the case before the Church and the Church shall lift up their hands against them.” The revelation did not outline specific punishments, other than that the guilty parties would be rebuked. Several individuals were chastened in revelation texts. In other cases, individuals were brought before conferences of elders. In the case of those commanded to preach, church discipline included prohibiting them from acting in their office or taking away their —measures not specified in any of JS’s revelations but used by some Protestant churches at the time. In other cases, individuals were “dealt with according to the law of this Church,” but the historical record does not specify what form this discipline took.
Part one of this volume includes fourteen documents: nine revelations, four minutes of conferences, and one ’s license. Most of the original manuscripts were produced in —some in , some in , and some on the banks of the . Five of the original documents were created after JS’s return to .
  1. 1

    Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:1–5].  

  2. 2

    JS History, vol. A-1, 126, 129; Gilbert, Notebook, [34]–[36]; William W. Phelps, “Extract of a Letter from the Late Editor,” Ontario Phoenix (Canandaigua, NY), 7 Sept. 1831, [2].  

    Gilbert, Algernon Sidney. Notebook of Revelations, 1831–ca. 1833. Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL. MS 4583, box 1, fd. 2.

    Ontario Phoenix. Canandaigua, NY. 1828–1832.

  3. 3

    Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:3].  

  4. 4

    See Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57]; and Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58].  

  5. 5

    Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:57].  

  6. 6

    JS History, vol. A-1, 137. In 1831, church members from Colesville, New York, migrated to Thompson, Ohio. A June 1831 revelation then instructed these same members to move to Missouri. They arrived in Kaw Township, Missouri, in July. (Porter, “Colesville Branch in Kaw Township,” 281–287; Revelation, 10 June 1831 [D&C 54:7–8].)  

    Porter, Larry C. “The Colesville Branch in Kaw Township, Jackson County, Missouri, 1831–1833.” In Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: Missouri, edited by Arnold K. Garr and Clark V. Johnson, 281–311. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1994.

  7. 7

    Whitmer, History, 32. According to Whitmer, the eight elders were JS, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Peter Whitmer Jr., Frederick G. Williams, William W. Phelps, Martin Harris, and Joseph Coe. The history that JS commenced in 1838 omits Whitmer and Williams but adds Edward Partridge. The history also states that JS, not Rigdon, dedicated the temple spot; JS’s role in laying the cornerstone for the temple may have caused this confusion. Phelps stated in 1864 that the stone was laid “at the southeast corner of the ten acres for the first temple.” Two stones may, in fact, have been laid: in 1929, two stone markers were discovered, one bearing the inscription “SECT 1831” (for “southeast corner temple”) and one near what would have been the northeast corner of the temple. (JS History, vol. A-1, 139; Phelps, “Short History,” [1]; Berrett, Sacred Places, 4:34.)  

    Phelps, William W. “A Short History of W. W. Phelps’ Stay in Missouri,” 1864. Information concerning Persons Driven from Jackson County, Missouri in 1833, 1863–1868. CHL. MS 6019, fd. 7.

    Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.

  8. 8

    Minutes, 4 Aug. 1831.  

  9. 9

    JS History, vol. A-1, 139; Revelation, 7 Aug. 1831 [D&C 59]; Revelation, 8 Aug. 1831 [D&C 60].  

  10. 10

    Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:58].  

  11. 11

    JS History, vol. A-1, 142, 146; Revelation, 8 Aug. 1831 [D&C 60:6–7].  

  12. 12

    Whitmer, History, 33.  

  13. 13

    See Minutes, 1 Sept. 1831; Minutes, 6 Sept. 1831; and Minutes, 12 Sept. 1831.  

  14. 14

    Revelation, 23 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:80–93].  

  15. 15

    Heman Bassett, for example, was told in a June 1831 revelation that “that which was bestowed” upon him would be “taken from him,” while another June 1831 revelation told Ezra Thayer he would be “cut off” if he did not repent. (Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:37]; Revelation, 15 June 1831 [D&C 56:8–10].)  

  16. 16

    See Minutes, 4 Aug. 1831; Minutes, 1 Sept. 1831; Minutes, 6 Sept. 1831; and Minutes, 12 Sept. 1831.  

  17. 17

    See Minutes, 1 Sept. 1831; History of the Baptist Churches, 10; J. M. D., “Universalism a Licentious Doctrine,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, 5 Apr. 1839, 107; and Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm, 89–91.  

    History of the Baptist Churches Composing the Sturbridge Association, from Their Origin to 1843. New York: J. R. Bigelow, 1844.

    Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate. Utica, NY. 1830–1850.

    Wigger, John H. Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

  18. 18

    Minutes, 21 Oct. 1831.