JS, Discourse, [, Hancock Co., IL, 27 Mar. 1842]. Featured version copied [ca. 27 Mar. 1842] in Wilford Woodruff, Journal, vol. 4, 1 Jan. 1841–31 Dec. 1842, p. ; handwriting of ; Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Discourse, 7 Nov. 1841, as Reported by Wilford Woodruff.
On 27 March 1842 JS delivered a Sabbath day discourse in , Illinois, on the doctrine of for the dead. JS publicly introduced the doctrine that members could be vicariously baptized for deceased relatives in a 15 August 1840 funeral sermon for Nauvoo member . Over the course of the following nineteen months, JS further explained the new doctrine—as well as the procedures for performing the —in various letters and sermons. The practice was performed in the until a temporary font was installed in the basement of the unfinished Nauvoo in November 1841.
In his 27 March 1842 discourse, JS addressed a large assembly gathered in a near the construction site of the . According to , who was in the audience when the sermon was delivered, the congregation afterward walked down to the , where “Joseph the seer went into the river & Baptized all that came unto him.” Woodruff recorded portions of the discourse in his journal, presumably later that day or within a few days.
Simon Baker, “15 Aug. 1840 Minutes of Recollection of Joseph Smith’s Sermon,” JS Collection, CHL; Jane Harper Neyman and Vienna Jaques, Statement, 29 Nov. 1854, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL.
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
Woodruff, Journal, 27 Mar. 1842. JS’s journal entry of 27 March 1842, inscribed in the handwriting of Willard Richards, notes that JS baptized 107 individuals on this occasion. Though JS’s discourse reportedly focused on baptism for the dead, at least some of the baptisms JS performed that day were rebaptisms of living people, including Woodruff and John Taylor. Following the baptisms, the congregation returned to the grove, where some were confirmed by the laying on of hands. (JS, Journal, 27 Mar. 1842; Woodruff, Journal, 27 Mar. 1842.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Jonathan Grimshaw, a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office, made a copy of Woodruff’s text (adding several insertions) sometime after June 1853. Leo Hawkins later incorporated Grimshaw’s copy into the addenda of JS’s multivolume history. (Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 460; “The Following Brief Extract is from Elder Wilford Woodruff’s Journal March 27th 1842,” JS Collection, CHL; JS History, vol. C-1 Addenda, 61.)
He  was followed by Joseph the Seer who made some edifying remarks concerning for the dead, He said the Bible supported the doctrin, “why are ye Baptized for the dead if the dead rise not &c” if their is one word of the Lord that supports the doctrin it is enough to mik [make] it a true doctrin Again if we can baptize a man in the Name of the Father of the Son & of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins it is Just as much our privilege to act as an agent & be baptized for the remission of sins for & in behalf of our dead kindred who have not herd the gospel or fulness of it [p. ]
JS stated that his understanding of the doctrine was also partially influenced by “knowledg[e] independant of the Bible.” According to Vilate Murray Kimball, JS “received a more full explaination” of baptism for the dead “by Revelation.” (Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 15 Dec. 1840; Vilate Murray Kimball, Nauvoo, IL, to Heber C. Kimball, 11 Oct. 1840, photocopy, Vilate Murray Kimball, Letters, 1840, CHL.)