License for Frederick G. Williams, 20 March 1833
License, , Geauga Co., OH, for , 20 Mar. 1833; handwriting of ; signatures of JS and ; one page; CHL. Includes docket and archival marking.One leaf, measuring 4⅝–5½ × 7¾ inches (12–14 × 20 cm). The document was folded, possibly for travel, and added a docket on the verso: “License to | F. G. Williams.” later added a date to this docket: “March 20 1833.” The verso also includes a later graphite inscription.The Church Historian’s Office may have received the license as early as 1864 when ’s son Ezra Granger Williams gave some of his father’s documents and materials to the office. The also may have been received in 1934 when another collection of Frederick G. Williams’s documents was donated to the Historian’s Office.
The ’s foundational “Articles and Covenants” instructed leaders to issue to men to the office of or . This instruction provided precedent for supplying official licenses to other church office holders as well. A license demonstrated to those both inside and outside the church that authority for a particular calling or office had been appropriately granted to the license holder. A February 1831 revelation required that no one “go forth to preach my gospel or to build up my church except they be ordained by some one that hath authority & it is known to the church that he hath authority & have been regularly ordained by the leaders of the church.” A license thus served not only to identify those authorized to proselytize and perform other ministerial activities but also to prevent imposture within the church.Two days after he had been ordained to the , received a license from JS and . Williams had worked as JS’s scribe for the previous year and as his counselor since January 1833. He and Rigdon were each called to be a president of the high priesthood in a revelation dictated on 8 March 1833. Ten days later, on 18 March, at an assembly of in , Ohio, JS ordained Rigdon and Williams “by the to be equal with him in holding the of the Kingdom and also to the Presidency of the high Priest hood.” Williams’s license, featured here, affirmed his authority and worthiness to perform ministerial duties in connection with his new office. It is the first extant license issued by the church attesting to moral character and providing evidence of spiritual worthiness, a function that would characterize church licenses and certificates from the mid-1830s forward. Whereas this and all earlier licenses were handwritten documents, from February 1834 onward, individuals received licenses that were typically printed forms with blank lines where the issuer would write in his name, the date, and the name of the person receiving the license.
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