Revelation, Bank of the [at McIlwaine’s Bend], MO, 12 Aug. 1831. Featured version copied [ca. Sept. 1831] in Revelation Book 1, pp. 101–103; handwriting of ; CHL. Includes redactions. For more complete source information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1.
Having overseen the dedication of the land for the establishment of , JS departed , Jackson County, Missouri, for on 9 August 1831 in the company of ten . On 12 August, at a location on the that a later JS history calls “McIlwaine’s Bend,” JS dictated a revelation explaining the many dangers that existed on the river and instructing most of those returning to Ohio to leave the water and travel by land. The content of the revelation reflected experiences JS and his group had gone through as they made their way to , Missouri. Although nothing eventful occurred in the first day or two of their journey, discord apparently arose within the group when chastised some of the elders for inappropriate conduct and warned them that misfortune would befall them if they did not repent. Soon after, a sawyer—a submerged tree anchored to the bottom of the river—nearly capsized the canoe carrying JS and . Unnerved by this encounter, JS instructed the group to exit the water and camp for the night. According to a later JS history, then experienced “an open vision, by daylight,” of “the Destroyer, in his most horrible power, rid[ing] upon the face of the waters.” The contention within the group was resolved later that night, and JS dictated the revelation the next morning.
The revelation stated that God had permitted the elders to travel via the to , as instructed in an 8 August revelation, so that they could testify of the dangers on the water and warn church members not to travel to on the river. At the time, the Missouri River was considered navigable only approximately three months out of the year. An 1837 Missouri gazetteer referred to the “mad water” of the river and noted that “freights and ensurance and pilot-wages” were higher for Missouri River navigation than for other waterways because of “the dangers of the ever-varying channel of the river.” Other publications noted the frequent occurrence of sawyers, which were “the most formidable dangers to navigation of the river” and caused 70 percent of all steamboat wrecks. “These snags were the terror of the pilot,” according to an early history of Missouri River navigation, and were perhaps one reason for ’s designation of the river in the revelation’s heading as “the River Distruction.” After speaking to some of the elders who journeyed to Missouri, relayed that the river “is always rily and bubly and looks mad as if it had been cursed.” The revelation emphasized again the need for the elders to proclaim the gospel as they journeyed home and gave specific instructions to JS, , and to forego traveling on the river. Thereafter, JS, Rigdon, and Cowdery traveled by land to St. Louis and then took a stagecoach to , Ohio, by way of .
The original manuscript of this revelation is not extant. Presumably, either or , two of JS’s scribes, wrote the revelation as JS dictated it. copied the revelation into Revelation Book 1, probably shortly after JS, Rigdon, and Cowdery returned to , Ohio. also made a copy in a book of revelations he was keeping, probably in this same time period.
JS History, vol. A-1, 142. Reynolds Cahoon noted in his journal that the group traveled for “about 100 mile[s]” towards St. Louis before leaving the river, indicating that JS dictated the revelation approximately one hundred miles downstream from Independence. In Sidney Gilbert’s copy of the revelation, he gave the location as “on the Banks of the Missouri about 40 miles above Chairton [Chariton].” McIlwaine’s Bend was, therefore, probably at a site five miles west of Miami, Saline County, Missouri, and may have been what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1878 called Teteseau Bend, “an abrupt four-mile southward U-shaped bend.” This bend no longer exists because the river’s channel has changed. William Clark may have referred to this same bend when he wrote in his journal that his expedition with Meriwether Lewis was passing through “the worst part” of the Missouri River in June 1804—a time when they were traveling just west of the area where Miami was later established. (Cahoon, Diary, 9 Aug. 1831; Gilbert, Notebook, ; Berrett, Sacred Places, 4:138–139; Moulton and Dunlay, Journals of Lewis and Clark, 2:301–302.)
Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.
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.
Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.
JS History, vol. A-1, 142. Neither Ezra Booth nor Reynolds Cahoon—two members of the group who wrote contemporary accounts of the journey—mentioned Phelps’s vision. Since Phelps helped prepare this section of JS’s history, the information about the vision likely came directly from him. (See Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No. VII,” Ohio Star [Ravenna], 24 Nov. 1831, ; Cahoon, Diary, 9 Aug. 1831; see also Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 441.)
Ohio Star. Ravenna. 1830–1854.
Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.
Wetmore, Gazetteer of the State of Missouri, 33–35.
Wetmore, Alphonso, comp. Gazetteer of the State of Missouri. With a Map of the State, from the Office of the Surveyor-General, Including the Latest Additions and Surveys . . . . St. Louis: C. Keemle, 1837.
Chittenden, History of Early Steamboat Navigation, 1:80–81.
Chittenden, Hiram Martin. History of Early Steamboat Navigation on the Missouri River: Life and Adventures of Joseph La Barge, Pioneer Navigator and Indian Trader. . . . 2 vols. New York: Francis P. Harper, 1903.
given Aug 12th. 1831 on the Bank of the unfolding some mysteries &c &c——
Behold & hearken unto him the voice of him who hath all power who is from everlasting to everlasting even alpha & omega the begining & the end Behold verily thuss saith the lord unto you O ye of my who are assembled upon this spot whose sins are now forgiven you for I the Lord forgiveth sins & am mercyfull unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts but verily I say unto you that it is not needfull for this whole company of mine Elders to be moveing swiftly upon the waters whilst the Inhabitants on either sides are perishing in unbelief nevertheless I suffered it that ye might bear record Behold there are many dangers upon the waters & more especially hereafter for I the Lord have decreed in mine anger many distructions upon the waters yea & especially upon these waters nevertheless all flesh is in mine hand he that is faithfull among you shall not perish by the waters wherefore it is expedient that my servent & <my servent> be in haste upon their errand & mission nevertheless I would not suffer that ye should part untill ye you are chastened for all your sins that you might be one that you might not perish in wickedness but now verily I say it [p. 101]
A July 1831 revelation instructed Gilbert to establish a store in Independence and appointed Phelps a “Printer unto the Church.” According to a 5–7 August letter from Edward Partridge, Gilbert and Phelps were returning to Ohio “to procure the necessaries for their establishments.” (Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:8–11]; Edward Partridge, Independence, MO, to Lydia Clisbee Partridge, 5–7 Aug. 1831, , Edward Partridge, Letters, 1831–1835, CHL.)
Partridge, Edward. Letters, 1831–1835. CHL. MS 23154.