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.
& behold this is the way that after they leave the canal they shall Journey by land in as much as they are commanded to Journey by & go up unto the & they shall do like unto the children of Israel pitching their tents by the way & behold this you shall give unto all your brethren nevertheless unto whom it is given power to command the waters unto him it is given by the spirit to know all his ways wherefore let him do as the spirit of the living God commandeth him whether upon the land or upon the waters as it remaineth with me to do hereafter & unto you it is given the course of the saints or the way for the saints of the camp of the Lord to Journey & again verily I say unto you my Servents Joseph & shall not open their mouths in the congregations of the wicked untill they arrive at & in that place they shall lift up their voices unto god against that People yea unto him whose anger is kindelled against their wickedness a people which is well ripened for distruction & from thence let them Journy for the congregations of their brethren for their labours even now are wanted more abundantly among them then among the congregations of the wicked & now concerning the residue let them Journey & declare the word among the congregations of the wicked inasmuch as it is given & in as much as they do this they shall rid their garments & they shall be spotless before me & let them Journey together or two by two as seemeth them good only let my servent & my Servent with whom I am well pleased be not seperated untill they return to their homes & this for a wise purpose in me & now verily I say unto you & what I say unto one I say unto all be of good cheer little children for I am in your midst & I have not forsaken you & in as much as ye have humbelled yourselves before me the blessings of the kingdom is yours gird up your loins & be watchfull & be sober looking forth for the coming of the Son of man in an hour you think not pray always that you enter not into temptation that you may abide the day of his coming whether in life or in death even So Amen [p. 103]
Possibly an allusion to those recently ordained to the high priesthood. An addition JS made to Genesis 14 sometime between February and March 1831 as part of his revision of the Bible stated, in reference to the high priesthood, that “every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power by faith to break Mountains to divide the seas to dry up watters to turn them out of their course.” (Minutes, ca. 3–4 June 1831; Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 64; Old Testament Revision 1, p. 34 [Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:24].)
Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.
The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon affirmed: “we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgement seat of Christ.” The idea that elders bear responsibility for the sins of those they do not warn appears in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. (Testimony of Three Witnesses, Late June 1829; see also Ezekiel 3:17–21; 33:7–16; Acts 20:26–27; and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 124, 158 [Jacob 1:19; Mosiah 2:27–28].)