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on the same Book of Mormon passages and both were written to govern believers, but Articles of the Church of Christ was superseded once the church was established and was never ratified by the membership.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.
And now I speak unto the Repent all ye ends of the Earth & come unto me & be in my name which is Jesus Christ & endure to the end & ye shall be saved Behold Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father & there is none other name given whereby man can be saved Therefore all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father for in that name shall they be called at the last <day> Therefore if they know not the name by which they are called they cannot have place in the Kingdom of my Father Behold ye must walk uprightly before me & sin not & if ye do walk uprightly before me & sin not my grace is sufficient for you that ye shall be lifted up at the last day Behold I am Jesus Christ the Son of the liveing God I am the same which came unto my own & my own received me not I am the light which shineth in darkness & the darkness comprehendeth it not these words are not of men nor of man but of me Now remember the words of him who is the first & the last the light & the life of the world And I Jesus Christ your Lord & your God & your Redeemer by the power of my Spirit hath spoken it Amen—— And now if I have not authority to write these things judge ye behold ye shall know that I have authority when you & I shall be brought to stand before the j[u]dgement seat of Christ Now may [the grace] of God the Father & our Lord Jesus Christ be & abide with you all & fi[na]lly save you Eternally in his Kingdom through the Infinite atonement which is in Jesus Christ Amen—— Behold I am I am an of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father & the Lord Jesus Christ Behold I have written the things which he hath commanded me for behold his word was unto me as a burning fire shut up in my bones & I was weary with forbearing & I could forbear no longer Amen——
Written in the yea[r] of our Lord & Saviour 1829—— A true copy of the articles of the &c [p. ]
“Amen” was added by Sidney Rigdon at this point in Revelation Book 1. This benediction (including the “amen”) is almost identical to the one Cowdery used to close his 14 June 1829 letter to Hyrum Smith. In Revelation Book 1, the text from this point to the end of the extant portion of this document is crossed out. (Revelation Book 1, p. 24; Oliver Cowdery, Fayette, NY, to Hyrum Smith, 14 June 1829, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 6.)
JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 1.
The extant portion of the version of this revelation found in Revelation Book 1 ends at this point because a number of pages are missing from the volume. The final lines of the missing portion were presumably crossed out like the last few extant lines.