Appendix 3: “Articles of the Church of Christ,” June 1829
“Articles of the Church of Christ,” [possibly , Seneca Co., NY; June 1829]. Featured version copied [between ca. Feb. and Apr. 1830]; handwriting of ; three pages; CHL.
One sheet folded in half to form two leaves, each measuring about 10¼ × 7⅝ inches (26 × 19 cm). According to a letter filed with this manuscript, this document and several other manuscript revelations were donated to the Church Historian’s Office in the early 1960s by a descendant of . The rolled-up papers were discovered by the Rider family in 1958, having presumably been held by the family since Rider obtained them circa 1831.
wrote “Articles of the Church of Christ” in June 1829 in response to a JS revelation that commanded him to “rely upon the things which are written” in order to “build up my church.” The content and tone are similar to JS’s April 1830 “Articles and Covenants,” a text that was presented at the church’s first and adopted by vote as a governing document. Both texts relied on the same Book of Mormon passages and both were written to govern believers, but Articles of the Church of Christ was superseded once the church was established and was never ratified by the membership. seemed to recognize the two as independent documents by including both in Revelation Book 1, as if they were discrete revelatory texts. JS, however, did not write or dictate Articles of the Church of Christ, and it was not included in either the Book of Commandments or the Doctrine and Covenants. Cowdery’s Articles document is presented as an appendix to this volume because it was included in Revelation Book 1, written by commandment, and compiled from JS documents. It is also included for comparison with Articles and Covenants, circa April 1830 [D&C 20].
Both documents present instructions to guide believers, but the shorter document was apparently designed for JS’s followers in 1829, while the later document fits the circumstances of the newly organized in April 1830. The heading Cowdery attached to his Articles suggests its purpose: “A commandment from God unto Oliver how he should build up his Church & the manner thereof.” According to both JS’s history and Cowdery’s 1834 historical letters, John the Baptist gave JS and Cowdery the authority to one another, as well as other believers, in May 1829. In June 1829, the revelation commanding Cowdery to build up the church by relying on “the things which are written” indicated that “in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock.” It was in the context of these events that Cowdery then wrote Articles by copying passages about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, ecclesiastical positions, and church regulations from both the Book of Mormon manuscript and the June revelation to Cowdery and . This document thus enabled believers to “rely upon the things which are written,” even though the Book of Mormon was not published until March 1830.
The specific content of Articles of the Church of Christ strengthens the likelihood that it was intended to guide believers before the organization of the church. Notably, it excluded two important ordinances described in the Book of Mormon manuscript. ’s excerpts from the Book of Mormon copied all the and prayers found in the book of Moroni except those for bestowing the to those who were baptized and for ordaining believers to the office of . According to JS’s history, in June 1829 he and Cowdery were commanded by the voice of God to wait until they gathered with believers to ordain elders and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost. The history further reports that only after 6 April 1830, when the Church of Christ was established, did they begin ordaining elders and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost. JS’s Articles and Covenants included and elaborated upon the passages in the Book of Mormon manuscript that described the proper procedures for performing these . In contrast, Cowdery’s text omits these passages.
The text presented here is from a copy of Articles of the Church of Christ apparently owned by early member and handed down in his family. This version, which is in ’s handwriting, was selected over the copy in Revelation Book 1 because the latter is missing the leaf containing the first two paragraphs and the leaf containing the last few lines of text. Analysis of the text of Articles found in Revelation Book 1 strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon passages were copied from the original manuscript and that the document was therefore written before Cowdery finished creating the printer’s manuscript around February 1830. The Book of Mormon passages in the Rider copy, however, match the text of the printer’s manuscript. Since punctuation in these passages does not match punctuation found in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, this document was likely written sometime after the circa February 1830 completion of the printer’s manuscript but before April 1830, when Cowdery could have easily copied from the printed edition.
If Whitmer considered Articles of the Church of Christ to be an early version of Articles and Covenants, it is unlikely that he would have included both in Revelation Book 1. Even when a revelation was expanded after its first version, Whitmer only included one version of each revelation.
Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:3]. Once the Book of Mormon was published, the prayers on the Lord’s Supper printed therein became readily available for reference and guidance. Before then, Articles provided the only accessible copy of the prayers found in the Book of Mormon. After the publication of the Book of Mormon, some of the extant versions of JS’s Articles and Covenants referenced the published prayers found in the Book of Mormon instead of reproducing the text. (See Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:72–79]; and Coltrin, Diary, .)
Coltrin, Zebedee. Diaries, 1832–1834. CHL. MS 1443.
After Jesus Christ ascended to heaven following his ministry on the American continent, the twelve disciples were given “power that on him whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost.” (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 574 [Moroni 2:2].)
Cowdery recorded the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon from April to June 1829, after which he created a copy to be used by the printer to typeset the Book of Mormon. Cowdery repeatedly made the same kinds of changes throughout the printer’s manuscript, such as capitalizing words and changing “&” to “and.” Based on comparison of the passages of Cowdery’s Articles that were copied from the Book of Mormon with the Book of Mormon manuscripts themselves, it appears that the earliest known copy of Articles (found in Revelation Book 1) was copied from the original manuscript and that the copy of Articles featured here (the second extant copy) was copied from the printer’s manuscript. All of the changes made to the copy featured here match the common changes that Oliver Cowdery made to the printer’s manuscript: there were fifty-one capitalization changes, one instance of “has” being changed to “hath,” six instances of an ampersand being changed to “and,” one instance of “shew” being changed to “show,” one instance of “wherefore” being changed to “therefore,” three instances of “ye shall” being changed to “shall ye,” and one instance of “man nor of men” being changed to “of men nor of man.” (See Skousen, “Translating the Book of Mormon,” 110–111.)
Skousen, Royal. “Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript.” In Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, 61–93. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997.
A from God unto how he should build up his & the manner thereof——
Saying listen to the voice of Christ your Lord & your God & your Redeemer & write the words which I shall command you concerning my Church my Gospel my Rock & my Salvation. Behold the world is ripening in iniquity & it must needs be that the children of men are stirred up unto repentance both the Gentiles & also the House of Israel for behold I command all men everywhere to repent & I speak unto you even as unto Paul mine apostle for ye are called even with that same calling with which he was called Now therefore whosoever repenteth & humbleth himself before me & desireth to be in my name shall ye baptize them And after this manner did he command me that I should baptize them Behold ye shall go down & stand in the water & in my name shall ye baptize them And now behold these are the words which ye shall say calling them by name saying Having authority given me of Jesus Christ I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost Amen And then shall ye immerse them in the water & come forth again out of the water & after this manner shall ye baptize in my name For behold verily I say unto you That the Father & the Son & the Holy Ghost are one & I am in the Father & the Father in me & the Father & I are one
And ye are also called to & according to the gifts & callings of God unto men & after this manner shall ye ordain them Ye shall pray unto the Father in my name & then shall ye & say In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a Priest or if he be a Teacher I ordain you to be a Teacher to preach repentance & remission of sins through Jesus Christ by the endurance of faith on his name to the end Amen And this shall be the duty of the Priest He shall kneel down & the members of the Church shall kneel also which Church shall be called The Church of Christ & he shall pray to the Father in my name for the church & if it so be that it be built upon my Rock I will bless it And after that ye have prayed to the Father in my name ye shall preach the truth in soberness casting out none from among you but rather invite them to come And the Church shall oft & after this manner shall ye partake of it The or Priest shall minister it & after this manner shall he do he shall kneel with the Church & pray to the Father in the name of Christ & then shall ye say O God the Eternal Father [p. ]
Cowdery copied a Book of Mormon passage here but omitted its description that elders were intended to ordain priests and teachers: “The manner which the disipels which were called the elders of the church ordained priests & teachers.” (Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, 454; see also Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 575 [Moroni 3:1].)
Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, 1829–1830. CHL.
This is the first instance in which the precise name of the church was specified in writing. David Whitmer later wrote, “In June, 1829, the Lord gave us the name by which we must call the church, being the same as He gave the Nephites. We obeyed His commandment, and called it The Church of Christ until 1834.” (Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 73.)
Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.